Rape Charges Rock Family’s Idyllic Life
Lou Michel and Gene Warner, Buffalo News, May 15
They are the pillars of their small town.
He’s the town supervisor and president of their church council. She’s the former school board president, a retired elementary school teacher and superintendent of their church Sunday school. Together, they’ve raised four children.
It’s virtually impossible to find anyone in Eden who doesn’t like and respect Glenn and Linda Nellis.
But what may have seemed like a dream life has turned into a nightmare.
The Nellises’ 22-year-old son, Andrew, faces rape charges involving two teenage girls. Detectives also are investigating attacks on as many as five more girls — all friends of his younger sister, police say.
Multiple rape charges would rock any small town. The effect is seismic when it involves leaders of the community.
“Glenn’s done so much for so many people,” said Rita Brockman, owner of Eat’sa Pizza, who grew up with both parents. “He and Linda are both very dedicated people. I think everybody will stick behind them. You can’t blame them for what the son allegedly did. He’s of age. But I feel bad for everybody.”
“I support Glenn,” added Paul Shephard, owner of Smith Hardware and Appliances in downtown Eden. “That’s all I’m saying.”
On Friday afternoon, following widespread media reports about the rape accusations against his son, Glenn Nellis sat in his blue rocking chair — on a porch overlooking a vineyard in an idyllic rural setting — shaking his head, trying to fathom the accusations against his child.
“He’s basically said it’s not true,” Nellis said of his son. “We haven’t seen the statements yet. What we want is for Andy to have a fair trial, no different than anyone would want for their child. If he has, in fact, engaged in rape, the penalties are out there. When you think your youngster could be put away, it’s not a happy thought.
“We believe, as parents, if we didn’t give him an opportunity to be heard, we wouldn’t be doing our job,” he added. “His views need to come out, not rumors or hearsay. What is the evidence? What proof is there?”
Eden Police Chief Patrick M. Howard said Andrew Nellis is accused of taking advantage of his sister’s friends, dating back to 2002, with most of the incidents occurring last year. The girls ranged in age from 13 to 17 at the time of the alleged attacks.
Andrew Nellis faces rape and other charges in connection with two of the girls. The Erie County district attorney’s office is handling the investigation now, and evidence on the other girls’ claims is expected to go to a grand jury.
The accusations deal with forcible rapes. “Every one of them said no,” Howard said of the girls’ claims. “They pushed him away, and he persisted.”
Why didn’t anyone come forward earlier?
“They were all afraid of him,” Howard said, again citing their claims. “They didn’t want to upset their friend. It bothers me that they didn’t feel they could confide in a parent, teacher or somebody in authority who could have stopped this long ago.”
In their statements, the girls claimed that Andrew Nellis often was drunk when the incidents occurred. “We would prefer he didn’t drink as much as he did, and his mother wished he didn’t drink at all,” the 65-year-old Nellis said of his son.
Having been involved in government and public service most of his life, including the last six years as town supervisor, Nellis believes in the system. “You see some of these reports, and it’s like Andy’s being tried in the media, but I still believe in the justice system. Some things may be proven, and some not. I expect he’ll get a fair shake.”
Nellis was asked about the alleged victims. “I guess I would give them a caution — make sure they’re being truthful. My son’s future is on the line, and sometimes teenagers forget that.”
Nellis described his son as basically a good kid, who’s never had any brushes with the law except for an occasional traffic ticket. A 1999 graduate of Eden Central High School, he didn’t go to college. Since age 19, he has lived part of the time at home. Recently, he’s been living at home and working as a cook in a local restaurant.
Andrew Nellis has a 21/2-year-old daughter, and the Nellises are raising the toddler jointly, along with the mother and Andrew. Depending on his work schedule, Andrew Nellis helps take care of his daughter.
Andrew, his younger sister and their two older brothers are all adopted. He’s half white, half African-American, and his sister is African-American.
“The community has been overall very accepting of the kids over the years, and we’ve appreciated it,” Glenn Nellis said.
Then he talked about raising adopted children.
“It doesn’t take very long, and you view the adopted child as your own kid,” he said. “I can remember being stopped one day and being asked, “How many foster children do you have?’ I said, “I don’t have foster children. I have children.’ Most adoptive parents will tell you (the children) become very quickly part of your body and soul.”
The Nellises were on vacation, visiting friends in Iceland, when they got a phone call last weekend about their son’s arrest. So they flew home Monday to deal with the crisis, rather than flying on to Paris as planned.
His parents bailed him out by posting a $25,000 bond, and he now is living with a friend of the family. They’ve also hired a top local defense attorney, Thomas J. Eoannou.
Since the arrest, the Nellises have taken heart from a tremendous outpouring of compassion from the community. At one point, a woman walked up onto the family’s porch and hugged Glenn Nellis.
Eileen Jacobi, wife of the Rev. Fred Jacobi, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, said she’s hoping and praying for them.
“It doesn’t matter that they’re pillars of the community,” Jacobi said. “Any family would be devastated at a time like this.”
This isn’t the first time in recent years that young people in Eden have made big headlines. Three years ago, authorities accused three Eden High School students of hatching an elaborate shooting plot in chemistry class.