Who is Toby Willis?
The former TLC reality TV star and father-of-12 was sentenced to 40 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to four counts of child rape in a Tennessee court on Wednesday, July 12, after he previously pled not guilty to the charges when he was arrested last year.
Keep reading below to find out more about Toby and his family.
(Photo Credit: TLC)
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Because Toby’s victim was underage, their name has been withheld to protect their identity. But local paper The Tennessean reported that the 47-year-old was charged with the crime after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation found that 13 years ago, he had been involved the rape of a girl who was between the ages of nine and 12 years old at the time.
Court documents obtained by FOX411 later revealed that the victim was a Willis family member.
It is speculated that Toby’s victim could have been one of his two oldest daughters since they would fit the description of the victim in the TBI investigation. His oldest daughter Jessica Jane is 25 years old, which means she would have been 12 at the time, and his second-oldest daughter Jennifer Elizabeth is 22, so she would have been 9 at the time of the rape.
Brenda was Toby’s high school sweetheart and, of course, the news devastated her and her children. Shortly after Toby was arrested and charged, the 49-year-old’s attorney Bill Speek released a statement on her behalf.
"The Willis family would like to thank their family, friends and fans for the outpouring of love and support during this most difficult year,” the statement read. “Additionally, the Willis family would like to thank the many members of law enforcement for their detailed and comprehensive investigation of this matter. Finally, the family would like to thank the District Attorney's office for their diligence and sensitivity in the handling of this case. The family has remained fully cooperative throughout the investigation. Although the criminal case has concluded with Toby Willis receiving 40 years for the crimes he committed, the impact on the victims will remain much longer. The family is appreciative and grateful that people have respected their need for privacy during this trying time and asks for continued respect as they seek to move forward."
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
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He was one of nine children, but a tragic accident in 1994 took the lives of six of his siblings.
Toby’s parents, Reverend Scott and Janet Willis, were driving from their home in Illinois to Wisconsin to visit their son Dan when they ran over a piece of metal which caused the back of their vehicle to explode into flames, local TV station WGN9 reported. Scott lost control of the car and it skidded, and they tried to get out before it came to a stop.
Five of the youngest children died immediately from their burns, and the oldest son died in the hospital. Toby was not in the car at the time of the accident.
When the Willis family sued the state for the accident, they uncovered a scandal that involved the driver of a truck that was responsible for leaving the dangerous piece of metal on the road. Four years after the accident, the family was awarded $100 million in an out-of-court settlement.
Because of the settlement, both Toby and his wife Brenda did not have to work, and instead, they moved to Nashville and funneled their energy into managing the family band and making their children’s dreams come true.
They reached the quarter-finals during Season 9 of AGT, and the twelve children wowed judges Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, Mel B, and Heidi Klum during their audition.
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“We do a ton of stuff, and we do it all together,” Jessica said before their performance. “We do music, and dance, and singing, and I wanna just have a good time showing that to you guys today.”
Before Toby’s scandal broke, Jessica had quietly quit the family band.
Before TLC’s The Willis Family, they starred on a show called The Willis Clan that aired on the Great American Country cable channel.
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Toby and Brenda went on to have a big family too, and all 12 of their children’s names start with the letter “J” just like Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s children. And just like the Duggars, the Willis children are homeschooled and they all identify as conservative Christians.
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