Esther Combs
Esther Combs

Esther Combs tells probation officer she feels safer now that Bristol minister, wife are in jail

BLOUNTVILLE : The woman raised as Esther Combs told a probation officer that in some ways Joe and Evangeline Combs will always be her parents, but she feels safer now that they are in jail. That and other comments from the now 22-year-old woman, who has changed her name, were reported in Joe and Evangeline Combs' presentence reports filed in criminal court last week.

The Combses' were convicted jointly last month of kidnapping the girl, by concealing her, and of aggravated assault. Joe Combs was also convicted of aggravated perjury, aggravated rape and seven counts of rape. Evangeline Combs was convicted individually of four counts of aggravated child abuse.

They are scheduled for sentencing next Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. Prosecutors have filed motions to seek consecutive sentencing against each of them and a notice of several enhancing factors for harsh sentences. District Attorney General Greeley Wells stated in the motion that both defendants have extensive records of criminal activity, are dangerous and exhibit behavior with little regard for human life.

The Combses' convictions came at the end of a five-week jury trial in which Esther Combs testified about a life of abuse. She said her first memory was of being tied to her high chair and pushed down a flight of stairs.

The woman said she was beaten almost daily and that Joe Combs forced her to have oral sex. She said when Evangeline Combs learned of the oral sex, the woman beat her. The Combses got Esther from a children's home in Indiana, but Joe Combs testified he didn't complete the adoption because the home demanded too much money.

The family moved to Florida then spent some years traveling while Joe Combs preached. They settled in Bristol, Tenn., in 1989. Church members testified Esther and her siblings were friendly. They said they noticed some scars on Esther's face but never asked about them. A medical examiner testified the woman had 410 scars all over her body. Esther described some of the injuries that caused the scars when she testified.

If the Combses are given maximum sentences and have to serve them consecutively, Joe Combs faces about 140 years in prison, while Evangeline Combs faces about 80 year in prison. After their conviction, Sullivan County officials transported the couple to Blount County until they are sentenced.

Published April 18, 2000 Kingsport Times-News

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