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New allegations surface against man investigated by Michigan Radio, judge sets $1 million bond

Kent County Jail

Back in January, Michigan Radio shared the story of how a man escaped prosecution after multiple families accused him of sexually abusing their kids. Shortly after we spoke to Jamie Treadwell in the fall of 2019, he broke ties with the celibate, religious brotherhood based in Chelsea, Michigan that he was a part of for decades.  

Now, another child has come forward with allegations against Treadwell. This child is a student at The Potter’s House school, where Treadwell was an artist in residence from the fall of 2015 through the fall of 2016.

The alleged abuse took place at the school in January 2016, according to court records and a press release issued by Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker. 

The Potter’s House school is a non-profit, K-12 Christian school with a long history in Grand Rapids.

“We have cooperated fully with the authorities, including providing Wyoming Police complete access to walk through all of our facilities and will continue that level of cooperation,” the school said in a written media statement.

School superintendent John Booy didn’t respond to specific questions from Michigan Radio.

The two criminal sexual conduct cases are felony charges. If convicted, the maximum penalty is 15 years, according to Becker. Police are encouraging anyone with information on these cases or potentially other victims to contact police.

Credit YouTube / The Servants of the Word
The Servants of the Word
Jamie Treadwell in a video from The Servants of the Word.

“Any time law enforcement finds a case and charges multiple victims, there is always the possibility of others out there who have not come forward to make a report,” Becker’s statement said. “Delayed disclosure is a common phenomenon regarding children who have been sexually abused.”

Becker did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

On Monday morning, a district court judge in Wyoming, Michigan set a $1 million bond at Treadwell’s arraignment. The court noted he was a flight risk, although Treadwell’s lawyer stressed he had traveled back to Michigan from where he was living in Florida after he learned there was a warrant out for his arrest. Treadwell turned himself in over the weekend.

“No, he cannot make a million dollar bond,” Treadwell’s attorney Larry Willey told a second district court judge considering bonding later Monday afternoon in the second case. Treadwell listened via videostream, nodding, wearing a green jail jumpsuit.

Willey did not respond to a request for comment on the new allegations. Treadwell previously denied inappropriately touching children in Michigan Radio’s January investigation.

“We intend to, either through negotiations or a motion to reduce the bond, deal with that bond, because we believe it’s way, way too high,” Willey said. Willey says Treadwell would stay at his brother's home in Canton, Michigan if a judge were to agree to lower the bond.

The first criminal sexual conduct charge is based on the police report the Potter's House student filed. The second charge comes from a case involving a then 8-year old girl living in East Grand Rapids. Michigan Radio doesn’t identify alleged minor victims of sexual assault.

Rob Barrett, the girl’s father, reported he saw the alleged abuse and reported it to police in September 2016. Then, Becker declined to press charges. But Becker told Michigan Radio he was unaware at the time that there was another alleged victim who had filed a similar complaint in the Lansing area.

“From the moment we realized our family had been so deeply betrayed, our goals have been for the truth to come to light, for children and families to be protected from harm, and for those already harmed to find healing,” Rob and his wife, Crystal Barrett, said in a statement on Monday. “We sincerely hope that this legal process can help achieve these goals.”

As an artist in Grand Rapids, Treadwell had entered into ArtPrize. He helped co-found an organization for at-risk youth in Belfast called Youth Initiatives.

An internal investigation done in 2017 by the Servants of the Word, the Christian brotherhood Treadwell belonged to, showed similar patterns and allegations against Treadwell in London, where he once lived. In the fall of 2019, The Servants of the Word became aware of more allegations against Treadwell.

In a written statement on Monday, The Servants of the Word say child safety is its first priority.

“We deeply regret the harm that (Treadwell’s) actions may have caused to children, their families, and our community. We have been fully cooperating with those investigating this matter and will continue to do so. We encourage anyone with any pertinent information about Mr. Treadwell’s activities to please contact the police and/or us,” the group’s statement reads in part.

Treadwell’s next court date is May 20th.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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