• November 26, 2014

Ministry founder puzzled by charge

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Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2014 4:30 am

TEMPLE — Jon Tidball, 63, executive director and founder of Patriot Kids Ministry in Salado, was released from Bell County Jail on Wednesday morning on $75,000 bail. He returned to his home at the facility on Cedar Knob Church Road.

The Bell County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Crimes Unit arrested Tidball at the facility Monday afternoon on an outstanding warrant out of Bexar County. He is charged with indecency with a child by sexual contact.

He said in a phone interview Wednesday that the last three days “have been a trial” and he doesn’t know why his stepdaughter is putting him through this for a third time.

“I’m kind of reeling from all this. I’ve just spent three days in jail. I’m pretty devastated,” Tidball said.

The charge against Tidball is the result of a joint investigation by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Army and is based on a claim by Tidball’s former stepdaughter, said Michele Cianci, director of the Special Crimes Unit.

The woman said she was 8 years old when the contact began, and it continued until she was 14.

The woman, now 24, said she has reported the alleged contact for many years but it was never legally pursued, Cianci said. But when she found out Tidball was involved with the Salado ministry, she continued to press for charges to be filed.

Two previous allegations his stepdaughter made were found to be unsubstantiated after being investigated and the cases were closed, Tidball said. He said the first investigation was in 2004 and the last was in January 2013.

“But this is the first time I’ve been arrested. Why am I being punished over and over again for something I didn’t do?” he asked.

Tidball claimed his stepdaughter has always been a “problem child,” and “they’ve gone through one thing after another with her, including drugs.”

“I think she just wants to hurt me,” he said.

Patriot Kids Ministry, opened in January 2012, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing military families with free after-school programs, clubs and camps and to help children develop life skills.

About 10 camps are offered in the summer and one or two during the winter.

Children ages 7 to 11 participate.

Tidball stressed he didn’t have personal contact with children through the ministry because his only roles are coordinating activities and cooking, since he is a certified chef.

One of the facility’s volunteers, Curtis Hunter, said Wednesday he has known Tidball for about seven years.

“I have every confidence the allegations aren’t true. My kids have been to the camps. My wife and I have helped him. There is no way any of this is true,” Hunter said.

During a news conference Tuesday, Bell County Sheriff Eddy Lange urged people to remember that everyone is presumed innocent until they’re proven guilty.

At the same time, investigators asked for help to find out if any Bell County children were compromised by inappropriate behavior at any events attended by Tidball.

Parents were urged to call the Special Crimes Unit at 254-913-6770 with any information, Cianci said.

Tidball retired from the Army in 2008 with the rank of lieutenant colonel after 31 years as a chaplain stationed at various locations.

He was assigned to Fort Hood from 2005 to 2008, said Christopher Haug, Fort Hood spokesman.

Haug referred all other questions about the Army investigation to Chris Grey, public affairs chief for the U.S. Criminal Investigation Command at Quantico, Va.

Because the case is going to prosecution, he can’t provide any information on the Army’s case, Grey said.

Tidball said he was reapplying for his concealed handgun license when he got a letter in the mail from Quantico saying he had an active arrest warrant.

Bell County deputies arrested him a few days later, he said.

The Army never told him he was charged with anything, Tidball said.

Lange stressed that so far there is no indication of any wrongdoing by Tidball in Bell County.

He added that Bexar County and the Army had enough probable cause to issue the arrest warrant.

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