Toby Willis rose to fame after his family of 14 appeared on America’s Got Talent. Toby’s 12 musically-gifted children landed a spot in the Season 9 quarterfinals before eventually being cut. However, they had already won the hearts of many Americans and continued on to have successful musical tours. Following their success, the family was offered a reality television series on TLC and would go on to record two seasons for the network. Sadly, the squeaky clean image of the Willis family came crashing down after it was revealed that Toby Willis had been arrested and charged with raping a female family member.
Fox News reports that Toby Willis was arrested in Kentucky on September 9, 2016, after police opened an investigation into the father on August 29. The investigation surrounded a purported rape that occurred 12 years prior while the family was in Nashville, Tennessee. According to the police reports, Toby allegedly raped a female family member who was between the ages of 9 and 12 at the time of the sexual assault.
According to ABC 7, the arrest was the result of a sexual crime that reportedly took place 12 years ago. However, the reports indicate that the “crime began in 2002.” Therefore, it appears that the abuse may have begun when the child was between the ages of 7 and 10.
Following the reports that a family member was abused, News Channel 5 Nashville reported that the victim was a “biological daughter” of Toby Willis. However, the network quickly took down the article after many questioned whether the network had proof that a daughter was the victim. Similarly, many noted that if a daughter was the victim, the media should maintain her privacy. Therefore, it is unclear if News Channel 5 took down the article to protect the identity of the victim or if the information was unverified. If the information was correct, there would only be two possible victims as Toby only has two daughters between the ages of 21 and 24.
Nevertheless, police have confirmed that Toby Willis is not allowed to have contact with his wife Brenda or any of his 12 children. Meanwhile, Brenda Willis made a public statement regarding Toby’s arrest and distanced herself heavily from her husband. Throughout the statement, Brenda referred to her husband as “Toby Willis” and noted that all of her attention and efforts would be dedicated to her children and ensuring they recover from this traumatic event. She went on to note that investigators have her “full support and cooperation.”
“I was shocked and devastated by the revelation of events leading to Toby Willis’ arrest. As these are very trying times for the Willis family, I kindly ask all to respect our family’s privacy. As a mother of twelve, my first priority remains with my children and helping them through this traumatic event. We are cancelling all appearances for the foreseeable future to focus on the children and their wellbeing. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We have, and will continue, to fully cooperate with law enforcement officials and ask that you direct all inquires regarding Toby Willis’ case to the District Attorney’s office who have our complete support.””
The Daily Beast reported that things were taking a strange turn for The Willis Clan even before Toby’s arrest. The publication notes that prior to the rape charges against Toby, the Willis family’s eldest daughter, Jessica Willis, had abruptly left the band. The family did not discuss her departure but as fans continued to question Jessica’s whereabouts, the family finally made a brief statement noting that Jessica was pursuing a career of her own and had stepped away from the family’s band.
“Earlier this summer, the eldest child in the family, Jessica, who is 24, abruptly left the band with many fans asking where she was. Her parents briefly referenced her departure in a Facebook Live video this summer but were otherwise vague.”
Since her departure, Jessica has spent increasing amounts of time with her boyfriend and even dyed her hair a darker color. She frequently showed up in his photographs on Instagram and appeared to be enjoying her time away from the band.
The day of Toby’s arrest, the boyfriend posted an image of a lantern at sunset with the caption “Speak truth boldly.”
Some followers of the photographer boyfriend pointed out that it appears Jessica’s Instagram account had been removed and asked if she was okay. One noted that the quote was lovely but that “I just hope that this is just a quote.”
The boyfriend followed the post by another featuring a waterfall with the caption “Through any type of hardship or discomfort we have to remember we’re growing in some way shape or form. Never toss fear the keys.”
While Jessica seems to be seeking refuge in her boyfriend during this difficult time, the rest of the Willis clan has canceled performances and is coping with the revelations that Toby Willis may have raped a family member.
[Featured Image by Sean Fisher/Instagram]