Town Frustrated With Minister, Violence
Apr. 07, 1986
LEE, Maine (AP) _ On a stop sign near the Lee Baptist Church is a graffito that sums up the feelings of many people here who are weary of the controversy and violence that seems to follow the church's fundamentalist preacher.
Below the word ''stop'' someone has painted the name Dunphy. The Rev. Daniel Dunphy was sentenced Thursday to six months and a day in jail for assault stemming from an incident last May.
His sentence was handed down just four days after he got into a fight with some youths who had cranked up the volume of a car radio while they played softball in a park near his church.
No charges are pending against Dunphy in the second case, although his 14- year-old son Carl is named in a juvenile petition charging criminal threatening.
According to witness Luis Mendez, an exchange student at the local high school, Carl Dunphy pulled a handgun after being asked by the minister to get a weapon as the fight ensued.
Mendez said Dunphy had threatened to break a youth's truck windshield with a bat unless the radio was turned off.
The Easter Sunday incident, the latest in a series of skirmishes between townspeople and Dunphy, resulted in the suspension of classes at Lee Academy since Wednesday.
The incident sparked a public meeting Thursday night where local people accused Dunphy of interfering with their rights. Some of the residents asked town officials if they were prepared to hire a policeman to protect them from the minister they say is terrorizing townspeople.
''There was no trouble in this town until this jerk came here,'' said Anita Duerr. ''He has terrorized this town for two years. Now that the guns have come out ... What happens if he decides to lose it?''
Dunphy, interviewed in Penobscot County Jail in Bangor after his sentencing, vowed he will return to the pulpit when his term is up.
''When I leave here my lifestyle will not change, my preaching will not change,'' he said. ''The thing that shakes me the most is how this can happen in America,'' said Dunphy, who has been known to tell children to shut off their radios that play ''the devil's music'' - rock 'n' roll.
Violence first erupted nearly a year ago when Dunphy took Sheila Crooker away from her foster mother's home in Hudson so the girl could continue attending his services. A scuffle over the incident led to the assault charge for which Dunphy was jailed Thursday.
A few months later, a group of men burst into the church during Sunday night services, swinging logging chains and pipes.
A fight broke out and those who started the melee were arrested. John Crooker, Sheila's father, was sentenced Thursday to six months for assault. Two other men were sentenced to 11 months in jail and two years probation.
Dunphy says he still gets death threats, but his biggest battle is a financial one.
His insurance company dropped coverage on his church, calling it too high a risk, and he said he has also suffered personal financial problems. He said he cuts wood to earn extra money for his wife and eight children.
''My financial situation is pretty bleak,'' said Dunphy. ''I've had to call people and actually beg mercy.''