Esther Combs
Esther Combs

Brother of convicted preacher Joseph Combs pleads guilty to perjury

The brother of a Bristol preacher convicted of child abuse, kidnapping and rape pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of aggravated perjury. Tim Combs of North Carolina pleaded guilty before Judge Phyllis Miller on Wednesday to the two charges, which stemmed from the 2000 trial of Joseph and Evangeline Combs.

A Sullivan County jury found Joseph and Evangeline Combs guilty of abusing and enslaving a girl they took from an Indiana orphanage and raised as their daughter. Tim Combs was accused of being in the courtroom while the victim, Elsa Garcia, testified and then lying twice to Judge Jerry Beck about the incident.

Count one of the indictment states that Tim Combs denied being in the courtroom during Garcia's testimony. Count two states that when questioned further, Tim Combs said he "came into the court, looked for his nieces and nephews, stood in the back for a little while and left."

Assistant District Attorney Barry Staubus said the state was ready to present evidence that proved Tim Combs wrong. "We had a tape from a TV station with (Tim Combs) in the courtroom, and we had a photo of him standing by a clock that read 2 p.m.," Staubus said.

Tim Combs received a sentence of two years probation to be served in North Carolina. His request that the sentence be expunged from his record following probation was denied. Staubus said telling the truth is "so important" to the judicial system that the state regularly prosecutes people for perjury.

"(Tim Combs) was being offered as a witness to the character of Joseph Combs, of the dates of the rapes," Staubus said. "We felt that Tim Combs had two opportunities to tell the truth, and that he did not."

Joseph and Evangeline Combs have appealed their case to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, where a three-judge panel heard arguments in the case Tuesday. Joseph Combs, 53, is serving a 114-year prison sentence, and Evangeline Combs, 52, is serving a 65-year sentence in the state women's prison.

The couple are asking the three-judge panel to either dismiss the convictions or order a new trial. No ruling was made on Tuesday, and Staubus said it could take three to four months before a ruling is issued.

Copyright Kingsport Times-News Published April 24, 2002

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