The founder and former director of a ministry purportedly dedicated to helping those suffering from substance abuse and mental health problems was sentenced to more than two decades in prison July 21 stemming from a series of sex crimes, according to a press release from the Dent County Prosecutor’s Office.
Michael D. Chilton, 40, pled guilty to one count of first-degree statutory rape, one count of second-degree statutory sodomy and two counts of second-degree statutory rape. Chilton was sentenced by Judge Kelly W. Parker to a total of 28 years in state prison, including 10 years for the first-degree count and six years each for the second-degree counts.
The release states the ruling came during a sentencing hearing and after two victims gave impact statements to a packed courtroom.
“The Dent County Prosecutor’s Office and my victim advocate worked closely with the victims and their family to pursue an agreeable prosecution strategy,” Dent County Prosecutor Andrew Curley said in a statement provided after the sentence was handed down. “The 28-year recommendation was developed over many days of trial preparation and submitted with the consent and approval of the victims.”
Prosecutor Curley indicated the sentencing hearing was emotional for many involved and wanted the victims and their families to know his office will be there to assist them in the future.
“These cases are difficult on everyone involved, but I know these individuals have bright futures ahead,” he said. “I am very proud of them and it remains a privilege to work alongside the law enforcement officers that investigated this case and the victims and their families.”
Chilton was founder of Walk by Faith Ministries and acted as the organization’s director up to his 2018 arrest. Literature from Walk by Faith Ministries details those suffering from substance abuse or mental health issues were invited to live in its facilities for up to one year while completing graduating steps of its program. Chilton claimed to have received clients off the street or as referrals from probation officers.
Walk by Faith Ministries operated a facility in Rolla from 2016 to 2018 in an old church building located at 101 North Rucker Street. The ministry then relocated to a facility in Salem located at 1 South Main Street. The Rolla Police Department reported to Phelps County Focus in 2018 that Chilton was previously the subject of investigations stemming from several personal property disputes brought by former Walk by Faith clients prior to the relocation.
The prosecutor’s press release details an investigation into Chilton’s alleged sex crimes began on June 28, 2018, upon the case’s first victim reporting to Jonathon Counts of the Salem Police Department that she had been a victim of sex crimes by Chilton since she was 12 years old. She reported the first instance was the fall of 2013 just before her 13th birthday. She described other incidents with Chilton occurring in Dent County between May 1, 2014 and September 31, 2014. She indicated Chilton and her had created a code language whereby he would tell her he needed to have a “one-on-one” with her before they would have intercourse. Over a period of time, this code language was reduced to the word “one” where Chilton would text her requesting a “one.” She reported a “one-on-one” or “one” meant sexual intercourse. She indicated Chilton stated to her that he was teaching her sexual education through these acts.
Additionally, she reported that her and another victim were involved in sexual intercourse with Chilton when both were present. The victim was over the age of 13 at the time of this incident, but under the age of 17.
On June 28, 2018, a search warrant was executed at Chilton’s residence. The search warrant was conducted by members of the Dent County Sheriff’s Office, the Division of Drug and Crime Control of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and members of the Salem Police Department. The search warrant resulted in the seizure of a phone believed to be Chilton’s. A review of the phone revealed messages consistent with the referred to code language.
On June 30, 2018, a second victim reported to Counts that she was also subjected to sex crimes with Chilton. Her report was substantially similar to the first victim where she indicated Chilton used a code language, indicated Chilton was teaching her sexual education, and indicated she was involved in sexual intercourse with Chilton and the first victim when all three parties were present and involved. She indicated that on or between March 15, 2013, and March 15, 2014, and also between September 1, 2015, and December 30, 2015, she had sexual intercourse with Chilton in Dent County. The victim was between the age of 15 and 17 during this timeframe.
The prosecutor’s press release concludes Statutory Rape in the First Degree involves sexual intercourse between an adult and a child under the age of 14 years old. Statutory Rape in the First Degree carries a range of punishment not less than 5 years and not more than life imprisonment in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Statutory Rape in the Second Degree involves sexual intercourse between an adult 21 years of age or older and a child less between the ages of 14 and 17 years old. Statutory Rape in the Second Degree carries a range of punishment not to exceed 7 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
The range of punishment for Statutory rape and sodomy in the second degree is the range of punishment as Possession of a Controlled Substance, except 35 grams or less of marijuana. The fact that possession of an illegal narcotic carries the same range of punishment as sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 17 and an adult 21 or older “needs to be addressed by our legislature to afford stiffer punishment for second degree statutory rape and sodomy,” the release stated.