Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Methodist Minister & Convicted Pedophile Oliver Brazelle


The following account has been taken from various websites and used with permission:

From January 2014:

Oliver Brazelle, 78, is facing at least three charges of sexual impropriety with underage males. Much has recently been written about these events, but little of Brazelle himself. Here’s a short bio of the former Methodist youth minister, partially taken from a 2006 interview with the long-time church employee:

Brazelle is a Florence native.
He attended Brandon Elementary and Coffee High Schools.

He attended Florence State Teachers College and was an officer for the school’s choir.
He began duties at Sheffield’s United Methodist Church at the age of 22.
He originally planned to work with the Sheffield congregation for only two years.
His first assignment was as Youth Director, a position he assumed in October 1956.
He founded the church’s first Children’s Choir.
A few years later, Brazelle founded the Youth Choir for older children.
He eventually assumed duties as director of the Adult Choir.
At one time, Brazelle had a total of nine youth oriented choirs under his direction.
He took one youth choir on summer tours, visiting many major US cities and traveling to Europe in 1986.
Brazelle’s hobby is spelunking and he often took youth groups to explore local caves.
He was named unofficially as the “Dean of District Music Directors.”
He formed a singing group composed of local businessmen called “The Wait a Minutes.”
He was relieved of duties as Youth Director in 2003.
He became the subject of a private investigation in 2012.


***** 


Former youth and music minister of Sheffield United Methodist Church, Oliver Brazelle, has been arrested in Lauderdale County on charges of sexual abuse of a young boy. Brazelle previously faced at least three similar charges in Sheffield in 2012. Originally, 10 men came forward with charges, but only three agreed to testify in court. Later, the three men who had initially agreed to testify against Brazelle declined to do so. If convicted of the charges that spanned 40 years, the 79 year old Brazelle could face up to 20 years in prison and be required to register as a sex offender upon his release. 

***** 

From August 2014:


As I walk a long the Bois de Boulogne with an independent air,
You can hear the girls declare,
He must be a millionaire,
You can hear them sigh and wish to die,
You can see them wink the other eye
At the man that broke the bank at Monte Carlo.


ob2Early this afternoon, two men walked away from the Lauderdale County Courthouse. The first looked fit, tanned, and probably Praxeled. Following closely behind Florence attorney Ralph Holt was his antithesis, an elderly man, excruciatingly thin and leaning heavily on a cane. A faint smile graced the face of Oliver Brazelle as Holt spoke briefly with this writer’s companion who had finished law school school with Ralph’s father. 

Yet Brazelle is now in what could be called a fight for his life. If convicted of the crimes of second degree sexual abuse and sodomy, the 81 year-old Brazelle could finish his days in a state prison facility. The maximum sentence the former youth and music minister could receive would be 20 years, but it’s doubtful a judge would levy such punishment on one with no previous record. While rumors have abounded about similar crimes in Sheffield, only one alleged victim has come forward to press charges, and that was in Lauderdale where Brazelle once owned a lake home.

The witness list for the trial appears long, with at least one Methodist bishop being called to testify. Today’s court appearance involved, among other issues, a piece of evidence that spoke to motive. Holt contends that motive in the case is not an issue. No…the motive in the crime, assuming it actually happened, is quite clear. Brazelle’s trial is scheduled for August 10th.

*****


Former Methodist youth minister of Sheffield, Oliver Brazelle, unexpectedly pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor on Wednesday afternoon. The 81 year-old Brazelle was originally charged with crimes that could have led to a 20 year sentence, but his plea assures his total time will be no more than half that.

While Brazelle has not yet been sentenced, Assistant District Attorney Will Powell, who along with the victim’s family accepted the elderly man’s plea, has mentioned “jail time.” Obviously Powell knows the difference between jail and prison. Is this where the sentencing will be heading? If Brazelle receives less than a year total incarceration time, his sentence would be served in the Lauderdale Detention Center. Vina coach Sonny Tibbs, convicted of illicit sex with a minor, is currently serving his time in the Marion County Jail. Even a sentence of over a year may be served locally under certain circumstances. Brazelle is not eligible for community corrections, but it’s not unheard of for a state prisoner to do his/her time locally, as one Lauderdale County woman convicted of investment fraud did only a few years ago.

Brazelle will again appear before Judge Gil Self in October. Self has told the aging former youth/music minister to have his affairs in order. It’s a sad end for what most thought was a life dedicated to serving God.

*****

 Some Insight into Oliver Brazelle Crimes/Sentencing

It is my understanding that Oliver will most likely serve time at Hamilton Aged & Infirm Center, which is a facility that normally cares for elderly or sickly prisoners. The plea agreement has been submitted to the judge, who will review and decide whether he agrees with the terms of the plea agreement. He could approve as is, or could impose what he thinks is a more appropriate sentence.

I do not know the name of the victim in this case, nor do I care to know, but it seems to me this young man has acted in a brave way, to put his allegations forward and to stick with them all the way. I believe the fact that Oliver was removed from his position as youth minister, but was kept as a church employee, contributed to many of his victims’ fears that “no one would believe them.” It took a lot of guts (and probably lengthy and expensive therapy) to stand up and
accuse Oliver.

No matter what sentence Oliver receives, he will deserve a longer one, but at his age and with his serious health issues, he likely won’t come out of there alive. Compared to doing hard time in a real prison, Hamilton AIC will be a piece of cake, but Oliver won’t know the difference. He’s already suffering dementia, or so I hear.The harshest sentence, the one Oliver must have feared the most, was losing his elevated position in the community, along with the respect and admiration of so many church-goers. I was one of those, long ago, and could not possibly be more disappointed in him. He will no longer make beautiful music, nor will he enjoy the company of family and old friends. He will leave all those blessings behind. It took decades to bring Oliver to this and I, for one, am grateful justice will be served up to him on October 7, 2015.

Not only do I feel personally betrayed, because I had thought so well of Oliver since the late 1950’s, but I feel betrayed on behalf of a good friend who is now deceased. One of the last messages I received from my friend reviled Oliver for what he did to him as a young boy. It had been hard for me to believe his accusations, which were private and not public, but his story had not changed over a number of years.

After a time I did believe his accusations and I said to my friend, who knew he was dying, that Oliver was old and weak and suffering from heart disease; that he could no longer cause him harm. My words seemed to help him, or at least he said it meant something to think of Oliver as weak instead of as a force. He kept his experiences with Oliver secret for over 50 years and I believe he suffered from shame and fear, not to mention anger and fury, the entire time. He told me many times that Oliver always threatened, “No one will believe you.”

So, none of that can be undone. But it means something to me that Oliver will be held accountable, however long or short his sentence may be. It is important that Oliver knows he has this permanent scar on his precious sterling reputation. I should have said, instead of I am grateful Oliver will be served justice, that I am grateful to the heroic young man who brought him to justice.

*****

BrazelleOliver

Oliver Brazelle, 81, is currently housed in the Bibb County Correctional Facility. The former Sheffield youth minister is serving a two year term for sexual abuse in Lauderdale County. His release date is October 5, 2017. Classed as an Adult sex offender under the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act, he is not eligible for WR, CWC or minimum custody.

Two weeks later:

Earlier this month, Oliver Brazelle was returned to Lauderdale Circuit Court where he was transferred to Community Corrections. The 81 year old former Methodist youth minister is serving a two year sentence for enticing a child. He was formerly held in the state prison system.

And the end:

Convicted sex offender Oliver Brazelle has died. Brazelle, 81, was serving a two year sentence in relation to crimes against young men who were ostensibly in his ministerial care. His death was confirmed this morning by the Lauderdale County District Attorney’s office. Had he lived, he would have been free in October 2017.

Despite being convicted of a sex crime, Brazelle was allowed to leave hardcore prison after a few months and to serve the remainder of his sentence in community corrections. The former Methodist youth minister had kept a low profile during these past few months.

The funeral for Oliver Brazelle is today at Elkins Funeral Home in Florence. Services are reported to be private and no details have been given out to the press. One person deeply affected by Brazelle’s crimes stated:  

I would like to make sure he is in the ground.