An investigation into the secret videotaping of women changing clothes in the office of a church pastor 10 years ago found a crime did occur, but the case was closed last week because the statute of limitations had expired.
According to a report obtained from the Clay County Sheriff's Office, Dr. Greg Neal was accused of hiding a camcorder in his office at Berean Baptist Church in the spring of 2001 and videotaping while two women changed clothes. The report says that while the tape was rumored to exist, it was not turned over to law enforcement until April 2011.
While investigators said the tape does show Neal handling the camera before and after two women are seen undressing "in an area where they had a reasonable expectation of privacy," the state's ability to prosecute a case of video voyeurism expired one year after the offense.
"While the evidence of his crimes of voyeurism in 2001 is overwhelming, unfortunately, the Statute of Limitations has expired," Assistant State Attorney James Colaw wrote. "Consequently, there is no way to legally pursue a prosecution for these acts."
Detectives said the VHS tape was discovered in 2002 when church employee Brent Bartlett was viewing a group of tapes of basketball games he said was given to him by Neal. The secretly recorded tape was included with the basketball tapes.
The report said Bartlett took the tape to Neal's father and the senior pastor of the church, Tom Neal, and he was told "the matter would be dealt with in the appropriate manner." Investigators were told that both Gregory Neal and Tom Neal denied to the victims and to church members that the videotape existed.
Both Neals refused several attempts to be interviewed by investigators or provide statements. They continue to be co-pastors of the church.
Document: Sheriff's Office Voyeurism Investigation
The only victim still in the area expressed disappointment that a criminal case could not be pursued, but understood the limitations of the law. She has the option of filing civil charges against Neal and the church.
Bill Cochrane, a deacon at the church for about 15 years, said he was dismissed in April and escorted off church property after the Neals learned he had asked the sheriff's office to investigate.
"The people who found out the truth and left (the church) were painted from the pulpit as being evil, called such thing as Satan worshipers and vile people," Cochrane said. "These are people who found out the truth and could not sit there and listen to someone who was lying to them and covering things up."
Cochrane said he considers the release of the sheriff's office to be vindication of efforts by church members to have the truth exposed. Cochrane said he and others are concerned about retaliation and, for the first time in his life, he owns a home security system.
With the case closed, the Clay County Sheriff's Office is expecting to release Wednesday the part of the videotape that doesn't show the victims.