Man convicted of raping 15-year-old church-goer faces 54 years in prison

Posted Sept. 05, 2011, at 8:50 p.m.
Ernest Willis carries his lawyers' documents earlier this year as he enters Merrimack Superior Court in Concord, N.H., on the fourth day of his trial on charges that he forcibly raped his children's 15-year-old babysitter in 1997.
Alexander Cohn | AP
Ernest Willis carries his lawyers' documents earlier this year as he enters Merrimack Superior Court in Concord, N.H., on the fourth day of his trial on charges that he forcibly raped his children's 15-year-old babysitter in 1997.

CONCORD, N.H. — A convicted rapist, accused of impregnating a 15-year-old church member, faces up to 54 years in a New Hampshire prison.

Fifty-two-year-old Ernest Willis of Gilford and the girl attended a fundamentalist Baptist church in Concord that made her apologize to the congregation when she became pregnant. The pastor helped ship her to a home of a Colorado couple she didn’t know and arrange for her baby to be adopted.

Willis is to be sentenced Tuesday in Merrimack Superior Court. He maintained the sex with the girl was consensual.

A jury convicted him of raping the girl twice in 1997. Concord police shelved the case when they couldn’t locate the victim, unaware she’d been moved to Colorado. Police revived the case last year when they learned of her whereabouts.

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