Children's Services Warned About Possible Remnant Abuse - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

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Children's Services Warned About Possible Remnant Abuse

(Story created 6/1/04)

A confidential memo shows the Department of Children's Services knew about allegations of child abuse months ago inside the Brentwood Fellowship, but did not act. Now, the DCS is working with police to see if the church's practice of strict discipline endangers children.

The confidential memo, obtained by NewsChannel 5, was sent April of last year from the Department of Children's Services to Laura Boone and her parents.

It's a response to their complaint of alleged abuse at Brentwood-based Remnant Fellowship.

"I was hired to baby sit for Remnant Fellowship," Laura Boone says.

The church was started by Christian diet guru Gwen Shamblin and operates out of her Weigh Down Workshop.

Boone says she became disturbed when church member Joe Smith ordered her to discipline his son Josef.

"That day Josef Smith was crying in the corner and his Dad was going to go leave him and I said sir what should I do if he continues to cry," she recalls. "And he just went, like, 'Hit him hard.'"

Boone refused and, she says, the 8-year-old boy's father took over.

"His son was still crying, and he took him into the other room. And we could hear his son wailing as he spanked him."

Boone quit that day, and her parents reported the incident to DCS.

The agency sent a letter back saying there wasn't enough information to investigate.

Six months later, young Josef was dead.

His parents Joe and Sonya are now both charged in Atlanta with beating him to death.

DCS spokeswoman Carla Aaron says the Boones didn't have enough information for them to act.

"Hindsight is 20-20 and certainly if we knew what we know now, we would have loved to intervened at that point," she adds.

"But without anything telling us who the family is or even specifically what happened to the child, there is just now way that we would have gotten involved."

But that's now changed. Franklin police are investigating -- and DCS is watching closely.

Detectives recently used search warrants to remove dozens of boxes of files from Remnant headquarters.

Based on witness accounts from people like Boone, there's now concern other children may be in danger.

Depending on what police find after they finish scrutinizing the files,  DCS says this time it will be ready to act.

"We're waiting for some specific information about a child or family that might be at risk of harm," Aaron adds. 

No one with Remnant Fellowship here has been charged with any crime.

And, founder Gwen Shamblin insists that their faith and their belief in stern discipline have nothing to do with child abuse.

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