Father of child sex crime victim fears masks required in Abilene court could impact outcome of trial


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Former Abilene youth minister Jeffery Forrest will see his day in court later this month after being accused of sexually assaulting children at the church he worked at three decades ago.

Of those set to testify against Forrest, one father of a victim says he’s worried lingering COVID-19 precautions in Texas courts could affect the outcome.

“The whole time he’s had this mask on about what a good youth leader, director [he is] and now they’re gonna let him go to court and continue to wear a mask? To continue to hide his face?,” said the father of one of the victims Don Steele.

Steele says he’s been waiting for this moment for 28 years but when he pictured looking his son’s alleged abuser in the face, it was always his whole face – not covered by a mask.

“The defendant has every right to a fair trial. Well my son has the right to a fair trial,” said Steele.

Right now, Texas courts are requiring all to wear a mask during a trial, something Steele says is not just going to cover up faces, but cover up the truth.

“Why can the jury not see, the anguish in my son’s face while he’s testifying against this animal,” said Steele.

Steele’s son Blake was just a child when he first met Forrest, a youth leader at their church.

“He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said Steele.

Steele says his son was molested by Forrest for six years.

“The things that happened to him should have never happened to any child,” said Steele.

Now 28 years later, both still live with the trauma.

“Jeff took the son that God gave me away from me,” said Steele. “Whether he murdered them with a gun, he killed these boys. He killed who they were and they will never ever be the kids that they would have been if he hadn’t destroyed their lives.”

Steele says the time he and his son waited has been too long but he’s willing to wait longer to get what he believes is a fair trial.

“I think facial expressions, express a thousand words,” said Steele. “By taking those away, you’re taking away what my son went through, how he’s feeling right now.”

Steele has been summond to testify but in protest says he will not take the stand.

Forrest worked at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church and other churches in Abilene back in the 90s.

His trial is set for April 12.

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