Glimpsing through the social media accounts of 24-year-old Spenser Farr, one would not get the impression that he was a man with skeletons in his closet. Portraying himself as a dedicated student and doting husband who had found their passion in preaching the messages of Jesus to his youth following, his arrest would no doubt come to a shock to Hamlin Baptist Church, which Farr had been employed at as a youth pastor.
Working as a lifeguard, a report from the Springfield News-Leader claims Farr sexually abused a boy under the age of 14 while in the showers. According to the report, the sexual abuse began in 2012, while Farr had been working at The Centre in Rolla, Missouri. The following year, Farr would be hired at another pool in Steelville. It’s there that Farr would be fired after repeatedly touching another boy’s genitals, again while in the showers. A report was made to Farr’s supervisor who then asked Farr to leave for the day and immediately contacted the city’s mayor, who had the ultimate authority over city workers. His arrest stemming from the incident, however, would not occurr until nearly five years later. The questions many have now is why it took so long for police to place Farr under arrest and if this delay in justice was part of a cover-up.
In a second report from the Springfield News-Leader, Melinda Simpson, who was responsible for reporting Farr after receiving shocking reports about the former lifeguard’s behavior, reached out in order to explain in detail what occurred after Farr had been fired from his position with the Steelville City Pool.
Simpson explained that after reporting the sexual abuse incidents to the proper channels, a city hall meeting was held. Simpson says that during this meeting, led by the city’s mayor and attended by a local police officer, it was discussed how to handle the allegations against Farr. Simpson claims Steelville’s mayor ultimately decided that since Farr, the son of a well-respected local pastor, had been removed from his position with the city’s pool that the “city of Steelville can just forget about it.” Simpson further claims she was told to “keep her mouth shut” about the abuse allegations.
It wouldn’t be until 2017 that the allegations against Farr would resurface, but so far no reports have indicated what led authorities to begin to investigate the scandal more than four years after it was reported. Springfield News-Leader reached out to the city of Steelville in order to find copies of the pool incident reports, but the city regretfully informed them that the records of the incident had been destroyed after a flood in 2015.
Farr is currently facing a total of five statutory sodomy charges from both Crawford and Phelps counties. He is being held on $550,000 bond.
It would appear that Crawford County, which includes the city of Steelville, is no stranger to cover-up allegations. In February of 2018, a Crawford County sheriff’s deputy was fired from the department in the wake of a murder investigation, in which the deputy’s son had been named a person of interest.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that 65-year-old Vernon Zelch had worked as a paper pusher handling subpoenas and other paperwork on behalf of the Crawford County Sheriff. It was during this time that Zelch had been accused of “meddling” with the murder investigation.
In April of 2016, Edward Hillhouse of Bourbon, Missouri was reported missing. For 17 long months, it would appear no one knew the whereabouts of Hillhouse until an anonymous tip led a regional task force to the yard of Zelch’s son, Deacon Zelch. It was determined that Hillhouse died as the result of a gunshot wound. Prosecutors allege Deacon Zelch then used a backhoe to bury Hillhouse’s body in his yard, along with other evidence.
Hillhouse’s sister told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she suspected the former deputy was part of a cover-up, later writing in a Facebook post, “For those of you who think Vernon wouldn’t cover for his son or that he wasn’t interfering, well if there was enough proof to fire him (then) I’d say there’s something there.”
Unfortunately for Crawford County, if officials were involved in a series of cover-ups, as it’s been alleged, it would appear that their house of cards is beginning to crumble. While a prominent last name may have bought both Spenser Farr and Deacon Zelch some time, ultimately justice prevailed. Hopefully, this justice continues to prevail and local journalists and neighboring law enforcement agencies continue to pressure local government officials to come clean and to be held accountable for their complicity in these serious crimes.