ANNOUNCER: The following episode deals with difficult subjects, including abuse. It contains references to disturbing events that may not be suitable for all listeners.
KIM HENDERSON: Previously on Truth Be Told
LEAH GIPSON: I looked at what we were being taught, and I said, “That's not right. That can't be right,” at a very early age.
JOANNA GIPSON: We had to sell at least $40 worth of candy. If we didn't, if we brought less than $40 home, we would get in trouble.
TABITHA GIPSON: We didn't know him as the monster. As the child predator. I didn't know that he preyed on children.
NATE LAMB: The Lord gave me a new life He cleansed me. He washed me out...
ANDREW SCHMUTZER: We need to address this in redemptive ways. There is a taste of healing now. But ultimate healing comes in the next life.
After I saw Nathaniel Lamb’s name on those court documents un-redacted -- in all caps -- I made a trip and saw it somewhere else. Today, Nate Lamb’s name is on a mailbox in a quiet suburban neighborhood two hours away from where he grew up in Jayess. He shares his home with his wife, Laura, and their four children. The kids look a lot like him. Sandy hair. Two of them wear glasses.
AMBI: LAMBS SCHOOLROOM
In the back part of the house they’ve turned a sunroom into a homeschool classroom. Posters teach about obtuse angles and phonics blends. Hanging above the clock is a motto: Quitting is not an option.
And then, there’s the praying mantis eggs and the tadpole. The tadpole has a name.
LAURA LAMB: Lucky, for right now
NATE LAMB: Because he’s lucky to be alive. (laughter)
Nate and Laura’s oldest child is Lucky’s caretaker.
CHILD: It's fixing to turn into a frog. It's really close. And, um, (gushes) I’m so excited. We got to change the water, um, every once in a while. And we got to feed it every single day.
KH: How can you tell it’s changing?
CHILD: Um, you just look really closely. It grows legs. Once it grows legs
She’s right. To see the changes, you have to look really closely. You have to look closely to notice other kinds of changes, too. This is part four of our story, Truth be Told: Broken Chains.
BILLY WAYNE THORNHILL: We walked down into the woods about a hundred yards from their house. And Nathan said, “David Earl King had gave me this to use.”
This podcast is about a shocking criminal case
TONEY RUSHING: We never did catch her, and the money was gone.
One that involves religion...
BILL GOODWIN: You know, you don’t mess with the preacher. People hate to believe that a man of God could do such a thing.
LEAH GIPSON: I will refer to him as King. I won’t ever say his whole name...
COUNTY CLERK: I started reading it and reviewing the court records, and I couldn’t put it down.
NATE LAMB: Now I'm not only keeping a secret from my family, but I'm dealing with the guilt of what happened.
ANDREW SCHMUTZER: This is not stranger danger. That was common when I was a kid. That mantra is baloney. Most perpetrators are people the victim knows, because that's how they have access to them.
During my interview with Moody Bible Institute Professor Andrew Schmutzer, the topic of healing came up. I asked him for some markers that show abuse victims are doing OK.
SCHMUTZER: They're no longer vigilant. They're no longer standing guard at every door they're learning to sleep. They're learning to eat appropriately. They're learning to take care of themselves. Every positive thing I say here has a negative counterpoint, right? And so for somebody to learn to get on top of spiritual healing as well -- that God doesn't look and act and behave like my abuser -- I mean, that’s a huge step.
Nate and Laura send their kids out so we can talk. They settle into chairs in the sunroom. The windows offer wide views of the backyard where the kids are playing.
I learn they met at a denominational youth activity. Laura lived out of town, so they had a long distance relationship. I ask Nate if he told her then about his abuse.
NATE: At some point I knew I was. I don't even know when I told you. When did I tell you?
LAURA: Bits and pieces would come out here and there
Then they got married. That was 2008, seven years after the trial. Nate was 21 years old.
LAURA: Over time, like I said, you know, bits and pieces would come out. Like he would show me where the church was and he would show me, “Well, this is where we used to live.” And then he would show me, “Well, this is where we hid out.” Just different things like that. I would just let him talk about it whenever he wanted to. And, um, you know, not force it out of him because I think if I would have forced it out of him, I think he probably would have closed off and clammed up, you know?
NATE: But there was a factor to my recovery that drove me. And I was thinking about this today. One of the things in my mind at 14 years old, you want normalcy. You want it to be, you want it to be normal, right? You’re getting a lot of peer pressure from everybody. Um, I wanted the thing to get over and get over fast. That's in my mind, that's what I wanted. And so once it got over—the trial was over—I felt a sense of completion or normalcy that, that, that phase of my life was over. It was a nightmare, and it was gone. And I think the case was in August, was it August? And so between August and January to where I found Christ, those were some tough months.
Laura says her mother-in-law, Darlene, has also filled in blanks from that time period.
LAURA: She said that the counselor said that he wasn't ready to talk. And even whenever we got married, he wasn't ready to really talk about it.
NATE: I’ll tell you why I didn’t want to talk. Because I told investigators, district attorneys. I told them everything. I talked it out about five, six times before I got to the counselor. And at that point, when the counselor was time for a—I was done talking, I didn't want to talk no more. I wanted to get this behind me, get it in the back, the rear view mirror and let me move on with my life.
Nate says his healing process really revved up after God saved him and changed him.
NATE: I was in fifth gear, and I was going 70 miles an hour down the highway at that point. And so I just needed that boost and the faster we got going away from, and the longer it, you know, we got away from the event, then my life just got a lot better. Okay.
KH: So recovery.
KH: What does it look like now? What are the challenges? 20 years later?
NATE: Has it been 20 years?
KH: This is the 20th anniversary.
They seem genuinely surprised that it’s been 20 years since the trial. Nate knows I’ve interviewed the assistant DA, Bill Goodwin. I told him that Goodwin said he never doubted Nate’s story, but other boys who came to the authorities through the years had a different experience. No one believed them. That seems to affect Nate.
NATE: Hmm. I wonder, I wonder what caused them not. Hmm. If they would have believed them or took it. I probably wouldn't have gone through it.
I told him what else Goodwin said about those boys. That many of them went on to live tragic lives.
NATE: That's truly unfortunate all the way around for anybody that had gone off into despair and went to whatever—you know, drugs or alcohol or whatever they went to, to fill the void and to deal with the hurt and pain, the wounds.
LAURA: You got justice for all those families and victims. And um, it's terrible.
KH: Nate did that.
LAURA: I know. I'm so proud of him. He, I don't, sometimes I truly don't feel like he realizes how big of a testimony he has and how amazing. I really don't, you know, I don't think he realizes.
AMBI: CHILDREN CLAMORING
All of sudden, there’s a commotion in the yard. The kids call for Nate.
Even though the family cat, Princess, gets credit for neutralizing the threat, it’s clear the children know they can depend on their dad. He responds when they call.
And the irony of a snake—a dead snake—making an appearance at just that moment isn’t lost on me or Nate. He says it’s symbolic of his story. The enemy is defeated. We have victory through Jesus Christ.
But the dead snake also represents something else—a world where danger can be hiding. Right in your own backyard.
NATE: Going through what I went through, it's causing me to be more alert and aware of surroundings and particularly knowing who we run with and being more discerning of everything and everyone. With my kids, um, we're very watchful and we, we really, we really pay attention to who our kids are with.
LAURA: I ask questions and I, I talk about, you know, if anything happens, I don't care what anybody says. I don't care if they say I'll kill you or I'll hurt your family. You tell me. You come and talk to me.
It’s a Tuesday when I visit. While Laura has been teaching the kids at home, Nate spent the day where he works -- at a metal recycling company. It supports businesses like the nearby Nissan automotive plant. But now all the Lambs are at home, preparing to go to their midweek church service.
AMBI: HOUSEHOLD RUSH
They rarely miss a gathering of their church, whether it’s for worship, fellowship, or whatever.
AMBI: NATE PREACHING
Nate, after all, is an ordained minister.
It’s just another part of an amazing recovery story. The ministry component took root a few years following the trial.
NATE: I had went to youth camp with just a couple of things in mind. And that was recreation—softball and basketball—and to get a couple girls’ phone numbers.
But while he was there, Nate says one of the camp counselors asked him a direct question.
NATE: Called me over to his side and looked me straight into my face. He said, “Bro. Nathaniel, are you called to preach?”
He says that began a long journey to where he is today. With his church, Nate does prison ministry. Teaches Sunday School. Preaches some.
NATE: And then, whatever else. Lawn mower guy. Weed-eater guy. Chain saw guy. Just whatever. Whatever the Lord wants me to do.
At the mid-week service, the congregation is singing. The lyrics seem especially appropriate for the Lambs. "Chains are broken, eyes are open. Hearts are mended, grace extended."
NATE: It's just amazing where God brought me from. In my personal prayer time, I always pray and ask the Lord, “Lord, don't let me forget where you brought me from.”
When Nate reflects on what happened at Valley of the Kings, he uses the lens of Scripture.
NATE: When you're doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, you have a form of godliness, you have a form of what is right. And so then you justify yourself and you deceive yourself and think that what you're doing is right.
I asked Nate if he thinks that’s what happened to David Earl King.
NATE: I think he was deceived. No one else can say how many times God has shown him mercy. How many times God dealt with him. How many times God sent people to warn him, but yet he turned his heart against God. And, um, I, I truly believe that his conscience was seared.
Two years ago, Laura was at the library with her children. She saw a notice for an upcoming program.
LAURA: It was talking about sex trafficking and stuff like that. And they were going to bring in the kids and teach them, and they had a younger class and the older class.
She talked Nate into going. She thought it might be good for him. She had no idea he would soon take a public role in abuse prevention.
LAURA: And that's where we met Ms. Susie...
The “Ms. Susie” that Laura mentioned is Susie Harvill. Harvill heads up Advocates for Freedom, a nonprofit that fights human trafficking. She’s the one who introduced me to Nate Lamb.
I caught up with Harvill at the Harrison County Youth Court in Gulfport, Mississippi.
She thinks the King case might be prosecuted differently today than it was 20 years ago.
SUSIE HARVILL: Trafficking does not have to be for money at all. Trafficking can be for a place to stay. A ride. It can be for power and a position. It can be like if other men came in and used Nate—it could be for the opportunity to be with other people. So it doesn’t always have to be a money exchange.
Nate and Laura decided to attend an Advocates for Freedom event. They didn’t let guests know Nate was going to speak.
LAURA: So it was a big secret. And so we just talked to everybody, like we would everybody else and just fellowshipped and stuff. And then whenever he stood up to go up there, all of the looks on their faces changed to amazement, like what? Cause you know, they didn't realize that he was one of the victims, you know?
Which led me to wonder what that audience expected the typical abuse survivor to look like. Remember the reporter, Matt Williamson? He said that’s what struck him at the trial in 2001. That Nate could look like any other kid and cover up so much so well.
And looking at Nate Lamb today, you’d never know what all he’s been through.
I asked Nate why he was willing to drive four hours to that event, all the way to Ocean Springs down on the Coast. Why he was willing to drive that distance again to have an initial meeting with Susie Harvill and me about this podcast.
NATE: Because I have this story that is worth sharing, and people need hope and people need to know that they can make it through.
AMBI: DARLENE SHOWING PICS
In the home where Nate’s parents live today, a string of family photos stretches across the mantle. Darlene Lamb is proud of them. She’s proud of her children. But anyone who knows about the King case knows Darlene has faced some tough challenges as a mother.
DARLENE LAMB: I would hear from some source, “Oh, they’re going to get out of jail” and then we had to deal with the appealing. Nate didn't know a lot of stuff, you know, until later on, I told him, it was like something going on every six months to a year down through the whole time they was in jail that I would get, you know. I was having to deal with all that stuff. I had to call the district attorney's office
Early in my interviews with Nate he described Darlene in a way that I thought was complimentary. He said, “She was always about her motherly duties.” Darlene’s duties increased in an unexpected way during the years after the trial. She bore the brunt of everything related to appeals matters so Nate wouldn’t have to.
DARLENE: I just tried to keep everything that I could away from Nathaniel because he had enough to deal with, just with what he testified about and having to deal with his own self, you know, without any more stuff added on to it. I just kind of kept it quiet.
Parole was a threat, too. Nathan Paul King was the man convicted of participating in Nate’s abuse. There came a time when his parole was a possibility. Here you’ll hear Nate refer to him as “Shawn.”
NATE: There was word that King was going to play out his revenge through Shawn when he got out of prison, when Shawn got out of prison. And Mom had gotten wind of that and rightfully so, she was concerned. And she just expressed it to the parole board and said, “Will you please keep them in there as long as the sentence.”
In the meantime, Laura took precautions.
LAURA: Nate was like, well, make sure that—because I'm on Facebook—make sure that all your stuff is private. Nobody can see your pictures. Nobody knows where you are. We try to keep it as private as possible, you know, and keep our kids as protected as possible
Nathan Paul King ended up serving his time—18 and a half years. His sisters—Joanna, Leah, and Tabitha—say they’ve heard he moved out of state, but he won’t respond to their attempts to contact him. He wants nothing to do with any of his family members.
Assistant District Attorney Bill Goodwin says he can understand that.
BILL GOODWIN: Look, I mean his family put him in the orbit of David Earl King, so I imagine he does blame them. So I mean, listen, the emotions involved in this sort of thing are so incredibly deep and complicated, you know. Anyone who pretends that they understand it all, I think, is deluding themselves.
Goodwin says he believes the judge went light on Nathan Paul King’s sentence. Everyone knew he was a victim himself.
GOODWIN: I hope he's doing well today. He served his time with the state of Mississippi, and I'm a big believer that when people serve their time, they should receive forgiveness. I hope that he's well, I do.
But while we were talking, Goodwin happened to mention something he saw in the paper recently. Officers had arrested another of David Earl King’s victims. This time, the charges involved child pornography.
The cyclical effects of abuse are staggering. Here’s Moody Bible Institute’s Professor Schmutzer again.
SCHMUTZER: Hurt people hurt people. And a lot of abusers are trying to deal with their own demons, if you want to know the honest truth. And a lot of these serial abusers were themselves abused. And they might even tell you, they don't like what they're doing. But because it's a language they understand, they themselves hurt other people. So this is a very complex form of evil that touches on the body, on the psyche, on the emotions. It is comprehensively damaging, because it is internal terrorism.
There’s also an update on the third person involved in the King trial. You may remember drifter Gary Bates turned state’s witness. He served four months in the county jail while awaiting trial, then got probation. His reduced charges meant Bates wasn’t required to register as a sex offender.
In 2011 -- that’s 10 years after the King trial -- officers in Simpson County charged Bates with statuary rape. So the drifter hadn’t drifted too far, after all. Simpson is just two county lines away from Valley of the Kings.
Eight years later, news outlets across the country reported David Earl King’s death at age 83. Readers of The Washington Times and The Seattle Times learned an autopsy was pending. King had served about a fourth of sentences totaling 66 years.
Nate says his mom called him with the news.
NATE: It was definitely a relief. I was thankful that it came to an end.
JOANNA: Darlene Lamb called me and told me when King passed away.
That’s Joanna, the oldest Gipson sister.
JOANNA: I was driving down the road, and I cried. Not because he was dead, but because my mother didn't live to see him die. I hoped that if she could live long enough to see him die, that she could get free mentally because she had never truly, even though she'd been out 15 years—he still had some hold on her. And I knew that he held hold over my brother. And as long as he was alive, my brother was never going to be free. And that's why I cried.
Assistant DA Goodwin was busy with more recent cases, but he, like most everyone in the Walthall County area, was aware of King’s death.
GOODWIN: I sincerely hope that when David Earl King drew his last breath, that he made peace with God over what he had done. My job was to put him in the penitentiary. What happened to him afterwards was between someone much more powerful than me
Goodwin admitted King probably never came to grips with his arrest.
GOODWIN: He probably didn't believe that Nathaniel and the Lambs would turn him in because they had been such a—uh, uh, what is the word I want to use? Faithful church members. And he was, I think, stunned—was still not believing it was the Lambs who undid him.
The funeral home that handled King’s burial contacted the Walthall County Sheriff's Department and requested some officer presence. Captain Billy Wayne Thornhill, one of the first officers to respond to the Lambs’ calls for help in 2001, was there.
BILLY WAYNE THORNHILL: They were wanting some security up there that day. So I got to watch them haul him into the little grave, his little crypt. So I knew David Earl King is no longer a problem to anybody on this earth.
During the course of my research, several people pointed to Nate Lamb as a rare illustration of abuse recovery. Investigators. Professor Schmutzer. Assistant DA Bill Goodwin.
GOODWIN: A lot of these people that were molested by David Earl King became drug addicts and alcoholics because that's what happens with children who are molested. They just have incredibly troubled lives. And so when a really strong person like Nathaniel comes along, who had the support of his family -- Well, hypothetically suppose, for example, Nathaniel had gone to Darlene and Mr. Lamb and said this and they said, “Oh no. You gotta keep this. You can't report this. We can't do this.” That man would have had a very different life than the one that he had. But, you know however it came to be that it was reported, you know, that saved Nathaniel.
Goodwin continued to press the point that Nate’s court victory was an anomaly.
GOODWIN: It just doesn't turn out like this. Just yesterday in the Times-Picayune—the city of New Orleans’ Times Picayune—in the bankruptcy court, the archdiocese of New Orleans filed bankruptcy to basically stop from having to pay the victims of the priest molestation. 400 people filed claims at the last minute.
Goodwin says the King trial showed it’s not just a Catholic problem. It’s a Protestant problem. An Episcopalian problem. A Jewish problem. And the repercussions of abuse can last a lifetime.
GOODWIN: Just yesterday, I settled a case where a young woman --she's in her sixties now -- was raped by a priest in Pike County, Mississippi, way back in the 1970s. She has carried that with her all of her life. Just yesterday, I settled that case. it is such an issue.
Goodwin is passionate when he speaks about victims. He’s come to some hard conclusions about perpetrators.
GOODWIN: You know, I don't believe anyone is beyond God's forgiveness, but when you've got a David Earl King the only thing you can do is take those people off the street and remove them from society forever while these people are not beyond forgiveness, they are beyond help this is a very pessimistic view of the nature of sex crimes against children. People that perpetuate this are so broken that there's really no help human beings can give them to make them stop being a threat to society. So we just have to remove them from society.
Prosecutors like Bill Goodwin have to immerse themselves in the kind depravity the rest of us prefer to think doesn’t exist. As we wrapped up our interview and prepared to leave the Walthall County Courthouse, I asked him what the solution was in cases like King’s.
GOODWIN: Not to make light of anything about this, but I don't know. I think part of the solution is for people not to surrender themselves and their family and their children to the authority of religious figures. And I know this is a religious podcast, and there’s got to be a middle of the road where the minister does not become a substitute for God.
Goodwin surprised me with a direct reference to the book of Acts.
GOODWIN: How did the early Christians live? They gave themselves to the disciples’ instruction, and they led the common life. And almost from the beginning, there's this close-knit relationship between the elders and the flock, but the elders have to be responsible to the flock and not go unchallenged.
Back at the offices of the Enterprise-Journal, Matt Williamson is busy covering a pandemic. But he still thinks about his time covering the King trial.
MATT WILLIAMSON: One thing that does stand out, and I think it’s worth noting, is how many people who are connected to this case are dead. The judge, he died...
He lists the judge, the DA, the sheriff. King.
WILLIAMSON: I want to say that David Earl’s wife died, too, but I’m not too sure -- did she? Yeah.
He notes that although it’s been 20 years, the memories are still pretty strong.
WILLIAMSON: It’s almost like a kind of really dark legacy that’s been left behind, you know? And I was thinking about that the other day when I was reading the articles. Well, he’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead. Yet this still, really in a way, lives on.
That kind of thinking makes the compound’s name, Valley of the Kings, significant. Egypt’s Valley of the Kings was, after all, a burial ground.
There are parallels. The Egyptian setting had a harsh climate. It was a spiritually barren place.
In Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, an elite order of guards called the medjay managed all the goings out and the comings in.
But through the centuries, tomb robbers and archaeologists found the hidden passageways of Valley of the Kings. They also found what Egypt’s notable Type A Personalities left behind: Piles of earthly trifles and strong evidence of a grave misunderstanding of eternal life.
Historians have explanations for all that happened in Egypt. How all the stuff at Walthall County’s Valley of the Kings happened is still hard to figure out. But God is bringing good from it.
That’s obvious when watching the Gipson sisters interact. Earlier on the day of our interview, they had a photographer come and take their picture. In one shot, the morning sun bears down through a thicket of trees. The light lands on their faces, which are turned toward each other. Talking. Laughing. They made a point of coordinating their clothes. Tabitha is wearing a navy jacket. Leah has a dress with a navy geometrical pattern. Joanna chose a navy sweater.
Navy blue, by the way, is symbolic. It represents strength. Power. Bravery. When they think about their past, the sisters choose to focus on the positive. It’s obvious in their successes, and in Tabitha’s words.
TABITHA: It's given us an attitude. We're survivors, you know. It's, uh, it's really helped us in, in certain aspects, we don't have this thing in our head that tells us that we can't do anything.
AMBI: LAMB FAMILY
And at Nate’s house, the kids are occupied with more wildlife. It’s not a snake this time. Instead, they tell me about a bird that flew through the back door and straight into their house. They were able to shoo it right back out. To freedom. They watched it soar.
Nate, standing a good foot taller than his wife and maybe two above his children, seems comfortable in the middle of it all. He seems comfortable in his own skin.
It’s good to see him so happy and whole, in spite of all that he’s been through.
NATE: I thank God for bringing me through the most horrible situation, and for allowing me the opportunity to live and to tell this story to the next victim. The places I’ve come from, the things I’ve gone through have shaped me for who I am today. And now I can say 20 years later to other victims that there is a purpose and a future and a hope for all.
CLOSING ANNOUNCER: Truth be Told is a four-part story written by Kim Henderson and produced by the creative team at WORLD Radio. Paul Butler and Leigh Jones are our script editors. Technical support by Johnny Franklin and podcast artwork by Eric Tombs.
If you’d like to comment on this special report, our email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. To share this episode with a friend, or learn more about the case, visit our website at wng.org/truthbetold.
And if you’ve appreciated this series from WORLD News Group, please consider supporting sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth. To donate visit: wng.org/donate. Thanks for listening, I'm Nick Eicher.
WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.