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Community rocked by child sex abuse case

Published 4:19pm Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Depraved, horrific, unprecedented—those involved with the growing case against child sexual abuser Stephen Norman Conrad Jr. have no prior experience to compare it to.
Conrad was arrested last week and confessed to the sexual abuse of at least eight minors. The 31-year-old Tallassee resident is being held at the Tallassee City Jail while paperwork on the more than 80 charges against him is completed. He will then be transferred to the Elmore County Jail to await his initial hearing.
According to Tallassee Police Chief Jimmy Rodgers said the case continues to grow.
“Since the initial reports went out we have two additional possible victims that have contacted us that we’re setting up interviews with,” Rodgers said.
Since Conrad’s arrest one horrible detail after another has emerged about his decade-long abuse of several children. Four of the eight initial victims are his own biological children. One of the victims is thought to have been as young as 10 months old when first abused and all of the other victims were under the age of 12. Conrad’s wife and with two other Tallassee residents knew of the abuse and did nothing to stop it or report it.
Brandy Jean Conrad, 26 of Tallassee, was charged with two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree sodomy and three counts of first-degree sexual abuse. Her bond was set at $350,000.
Helen Hazel Gantt, 56-year-old friend of Conrad’s, was charged with two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree sodomy, two counts of enticing a child for immoral purposes and one count of first-degree sexual abuse. Her bond was set at $300,000.
Jeffery Mark Ray, a 41-year-old friend of Conrad’s was charged with two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree sodomy and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse. His bond was also set at $300,000.
Stephen Conrad is under suicide watch so he’s being held in an isolated cell, with no excessive linens, and he’s under 24-hour surveillance. Rodgers said he will probably be transferred to Elmore County’s care later this week.
In addition to the five officers who investigated the case, led by assistant police chief Chris Miles, two local pastors have seen first-hand what Conrad’s confessed crimes have done to the victims and their families.
Christ Whittington, pastor at Living Water Worship Center in Tallassee is the president of the Tallassee Ministerial Alliance.
Whittington said Rodgers approached him several months ago to create a line of communication between the police department and the alliance so that pastors would be available to victims in times of disaster or emergency.
“He wanted to help crime victims by giving them the opportunity to lean on professional guidance as well as spiritual guidance,” Whittington said.
He and Elam Baptist Church pastor Gene Bridgman were made available to the victims and their families for counseling and support. Whittington said this case was unlike anything he’s ever dealt with.
“I have unfortunately had to deal with sexual abuse cases, but they were individual cases and not of this quantity,” he said.
Whittington said the most important part of the process was to show the victims that someone is there for them throughout their grieving and their healing.
“A lot of people ask me in situations like this ‘Where is God?’ God is the one running to these people. He’s there offering his help through people who are willing to just be there and to support these families,” he said.
Whittington said the most important thing for the victims to understand is that they’re not alone. He also commended the police department for focusing on the victims’ needs in addition to the investigation of the crimes.
Whittington said though the case itself and the pain of the victims and their families is a hard thing to deal with he was reassured in his faith.
“It was an encouragement to my own heart to know that the darkness does not win,” he said. “We do not have to surrender to this depravity.”
Rodgers expressed his gratitude to the alliance and the pastors who came forward to work with the victims.
“The pastors of this organization truly emulate their calling and that is to serve their fellow man and community in whatever means they are needed,” he said, adding that the Elmore County Department of Human Resources has also been invaluable in providing for the needs of the victims and their families.
Rodgers also encouraged any victims or witnesses who haven’t come forward to do so.
“We are asking that anyone, additional victims or witness, contact our agency, not just to assist in prosecution, but more so that we can direct them to agencies to help them begin the healing process,” he said.

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