Originally published in The Akron Beacon Journal
February 6, 1994
CHILDREN TELL OF LIFE OF INCEST, VIOLENCE
SHERRI SEXTON SAYS HER CHILD AND ALL OF SISTER PIXIE'S WERE FATHERED BY EDDIE SR., NOW FACING MURDER CHARGES
BY DAVID KNOX
Sherri Lynn Sexton says she would have told authorities that her dad sexually molested her and fathered her child -- if she'd had the chance.
But her father, Eddie Lee Sexton Sr., knew she'd tell, she says. That's why he sent his 20-year-old daughter and her 10-month-old son to live with relatives in Florida in the spring of 1992, shortly after Stark County Family Court took away his six minor children.
Because she was sent away, Sexton's secret stayed hidden for more than 1 1/2 years while authorities tried to determine the truth of rumors of physical and sexual abuse of Sexton's 12 children.
By the time a Stark County grand jury had issued indictments in October 1993 against Sexton, now 51, and his 46-year-old wife, Estella, they were long gone.
But with their father in custody, Sherri and her siblings say they are free to talk.
"I don't care if you use my name because I'm going to testify," she said.
Her father is in jail in Florida, accused of ordering the murder of his son-in-law, Joel M. Good Jr., to cover up the murder of another daughter's 9- month-old child.
Also charged in the killings are Sexton's 23-year-old son, William, and his 24-year-old daughter, Estella "Pixie' Good.
Pixie was Joel Good's wife and the mother of the dead child. But Joel wasn't the father, Sherri says. Eddie Sexton was.
He also fathered Pixie's two other children.
And he is the father of her own child, Sherri said.
"I think all this is wrong and I'm going to tell it all out," she said in an interview last week.
Sherri said her father first forced her to have sex in the early 1980s -- she thinks she was about 13 or 14.
The incest continued until she was 19 and had her father's baby. She said she was certain the child was his because he is the only person she ever has had sex with.
He never stopped with Pixie, Sherri said.
Over the years, she said, she had "seen Pixie and my dad make love." But she wasn't certain then that Pixie's two children -- two girls, one born in October 1988 while she was still a student at Jackson High and the second in November 1990 -- were her father's.
Joel Good, who graduated withPixie from Jackson High in 1989, is listed as the father on both children's birth certificates. They were married Feb. 12, 1992, in a ceremony performed by her father, who had filed incorporation papers for a "Calvary Church of God' in 1975. Family members say Sexton obtained a mail-order "$25 ordination."
"Pixie told me she married him to cover up the kids," Sherri said. "But she never told me what she was covering up the kids about."
Sherri said she found out the truth after the family joined her in Florida last summer.
"Joel kept telling me he never made love with Estella (Pixie)," she said. 'He'd try to make love to her and she pushes him away."
Then she saw a "love letter' Pixie had written to her father.
"She said that he's the only one she'll ever make love to...and she wants to marry my dad."
Sherri said she never went to authorities because she was afraid of her father.
Sherri said he sent her to Florida soon after the court placed six younger brothers and sisters in the temporary custody of the Stark County Department of Human Services in late April 1992. That was several months after Jackson school officials reported to police that another of Sexton's daughters, a high school student, may have been sexually abused by her father.
Although the girl passed a lie-detector test attesting that she was abused, the Massillon city prosecutor declined to bring charges because of lack of corroborating evidence of sexual abuse.
There was testimony from some of the children of physical abuse, however.
Charles Sexton, who was 17 at the time and the oldest of the minor children, said he told investigators that his father had beaten his sons. "I told them my dad abused us," he said. "He told us when we turned 16, we graduated from the belt to the fist."
But investigators heard conflicting stories from other children. "I more or less lied," said 24-year-old Eddie Sexton Jr. "I told them he was a good father and a good grandfather."
He said he kept silent because, "I was trying to pull him -- to see if he would get over this. Maybe he wouldn't do it again."
Now Eddie Jr. is cooperating with investigators. He went to Florida after his parents were arrested Jan. 14 on federal fugitive warrants stemming from the October indictments. He persuaded Charles and Sherri to return to Ohio. Once here, the brother and sister revealed -- first to Eddie Jr., then to authorities -- that the baby and Good had been murdered.
Charles accompanied two Stark County sheriff's deputies back to Florida on Jan. 27 to point out the graves. The baby was discovered within hours. Good's body was found the next day.
Eddie Jr. acknowledges that he also was brutalized by his father as a child.
"He made us kids go outside and pick our switch out that we were going to get whipped with," he said. "Then we'd have to take our pants down and he lashed us all over. If we moved around, he'd keep lashing us -- on our backs, on our arms, all over."
Eddie Jr. said he is having trouble dealing with some of his memories from his childhood.
Like the time when he was about 14 and his father suspected his wife, Estella, of having an affair and gathered all the children in the den.
"He had a little .38 (caliber handgun)," he said. "He was going to shoot our mother right in front of us....He asked us. He asked us, should he shoot her?'
Charles remembers another argument after his mother had misplaced some vehicle titles.
"He had a seven-shot shotgun. It was loaded and there was a shell in the chamber," he said. "He kicked in the back bedroom door. He took the shotgun off the rack that was in his bedroom. He went into the den and set the shotgun down.
"Then he went through the den to the kitchen, and you know they were going to get into a fistfight and the girls jumped on him. And then he got the shotgun and put it (to) my mom's head and told her he was going to kill her."
Some of the punishments meted out to the boys were calculated to be humiliating.
Charles and Sherri remember an incident when the younger boys were forced to stand without clothes because they had ripped a neighbor's porch screen.
'He made us stand in the hall naked," Charles said. "He made everybody come in and look at us."
Sherri said, in a separate interview, "He'd have them standing naked with books in their hands for a couple hours."
Charles remembered another painful punishments -- his father put Ben Gay ointment on his penis and that of a younger brother.
Not all the abuse was physical, the children said. There also was "some scary stuff," Eddie Jr. said.
"We would all gather hands and he would turn the lights out and we would have candles in the middle of the table," said Eddie Jr.
"We would try to bring back spirits and stuff," Charles said.
Charles and Eddie Jr. said one seancelike session featured a cat.
Sherri said she remembers the scene well -- it was her cat, Misty. "It was dead on the table, and my dad had all of us go around the table holding hands. He was talking weird. He was saying he was Satan...He kept asking us to give our souls to him -- to follow him to Satan."
Eddie Jr. and Charles were vague on the subject of direct sexual contact with their father.
"I can't remember about me," said Charles, who has started psychological counseling, along with Eddie Jr.
Sons have suspicions
Both said they suspected their father sexually molested their sisters, but weren't certain for a long time.
"I would notice that like whenever he would leave with one of the girls to go to the drugstore, he would be gone a long time," Eddie Jr. said. "He would have his shirt tucked into his pants when he would leave. And whenever he would come back, maybe half of his shirt was out of his pants. I knew what was going on. I just couldn't do nothing about it."
He said the closest he came to catching his father in the act was in the basement of their Jackson Township home. "He was supposed to be fixing the furnace or the hot water tank," Eddie Jr. said. "I went downstairs. Pixie was pulling up her pants."
Charles said he remembers "playing army' with his brother William.
"We had BB guns and I seen my dad and Pixie beside a tree and they were getting it on," he said. "I cracked a branch and they jumped up real fast and acted like they were talking."
Charles and Eddie said their father took precautions against being caught at night by placing an intercom on the steps to the second floor, where the older children slept in three bedrooms.
The youngest girl, now 9, "always slept in my mom and dad's bed," on the main floor, Eddie Jr. said. But sometimes Sherri and Pixie would sleep in the living room, he said. "He used to set up a microphone by the steps and he'd have (the intercom receiver) in his bedroom or it was in the living room," Eddie Jr. said. "If he'd hear somebody come down the steps, he'd get up right away."
Didn't their mother suspect? Eddie, Charles and Sherri said they didn't know. But they said it didn't matter if she did, because they saw their mother as just as much a victim as the children. "Because my dad controlled the money. He controlled the keys. He'd tell her what to do, what not to do," Charles said.
Couldn't she have gone to the authorities? The children said that while on the run, their father would make monthly trips back to Stark County to pick up his workers' compensation and other benefit checks.
"If she did, she would have got killed -- that's what my dad put in her head," Charles said. "He had it in all of our heads -- he'd hunt us down and he'd kill us. He said he was in the Mafia and has friends everywhere."
Loyalty a mystery
Eddie Jr., who left home at 18 and has a wife and three children, said he doesn't really understand why he stuck by his father so long.
He even pleaded his father's case on television on Nov. 21, 1992, when his father called a Cleveland station and threatened to kill anyone who came on his property.
About two months before, Stark County Family Court -- lacking evidence of sexual abuse -- had returned three of the minor children to their mother, but ordered the father to have no contact with the family.
The children say their father violated the order almost nightly, then barricaded his house after he misunderstood a legal notice to mean that the court intended to take the three children away again.
Sexton held police at bay for more than seven hours, surrendering only after human services officials agreed to his demand for a new caseworker.
Sexton got off with probation from Massillon Municipal Court -- possibly, in part, because his son was so persuasive when interviewed on television. "I told them he was a good grandfather -- never abused nobody -- loved my kids -- which is a lie. I was trying to protect him," Eddie Jr. said.
He said his father repaid him by taking more than $12,000 from him.
First, Eddie Sr. borrowed $5,000 for mortgage payments so he wouldn't lose the Caroline Street house.
Then he took the refund of $7,500 in bail money Eddie Jr. had put up when his father was arrested after the standoff.
"I just lost everything," the son said.
Charles said his father rejoined his wife and children, who were hiding at a friend's house in Canton. He used the bond money to flee from the area.
Charles said the family first went to Oklahoma, in a 24-foot Dodge motor home and a Buick.
The family -- two parents, Charles, William, a 13-year-old son and an 8- year-old girl -- stayed in a motel outside Tulsa for several weeks.
From there, they went to Elizabethtown, Ind., where they had relatives, for about a month, Charles said.
Then they settled in for six months in a mobile home park in Charlestown, Ind., near the Kentucky border.
It was in Indiana that the family grew by six members.
Pixie arrived from Jackson Township with her husband, Joel, and two children. On Jan. 17, 1993, she gave birth to Skipper Lee.
In May, the father took Charles and Pixie to Ohio to snatch another son -- a 16-year-old living with a foster family in Andover, near the Pennsylvania border.
Charles knew the home well because he had been placed there when all six children had been taken from the family. Charles said it was easy to get his 16-year-old brother away.
"Pixie called up there and acted like she was my ex-girlfriend and she asked if (the 16-year-old) could come on the phone," he said. "Pixie gave the phone to my dad and he told him to meet him up at McDonald's."
By midsummer, the Sexton clan had pulled up stakes again and headed to Hudson, Fla., north of Tampa, where they picked up Sherri and her son at the home of an older brother of Eddie Sexton.
The family rented a mobile home trailer about 40 miles away. Charles said his father intended to remain there.
The plan went awry when trouble developed with their neighbor. "These guys next door jumped on my little brother and Willie," Charles said. "Then they were going to start a fight with me and I said come on."
Fearing police might be called, the father decided to leave, Charles said. But not before leaving a calling card. "He told Willie and me to burn the (vacant) trailer' on a nearby property that his father had planned to buy if the family had remained in the area, said Charles, who said he has confessed the arson to police in Florida.
The family moved to the Hillsborough River State Park, northeast of Tampa, where they stayed a little more than a month.
Skipper Lee was killed there. Hillsborough County authorities, who say Pixie and William have confessed, say the mother smothered the child after Eddie Sexton told her to stop the baby from crying.
Her father feared drawing attention to the camp because only eight people were allowed at a site, Sherri said. The family was six over the limit.
The morning the child was found dead, Sherri said, her father told her that "Pixie killed that baby." But Sherri assumed the child had died from an overdose of adult cold medication.
"She always gave him NyQuil instead of feeding him," Sherri said. "She just poured NyQuil down his throat all the time."
But Charles said he saw bruises on the baby's neck and head.
None of the family members think their father intended the baby to be killed. "He loved that baby," Sherri said. But once the deed was done, the father orchestrated the cover-up -- holding a "funeral' for the child in the back of the motor home and ordering the body buried the next morning in a wooded area about 100 yards from the campsite.
And he threatened to kill anybody who told. "My dad ordered Charles and William to kill me if I left the camper," Sherri said. "They told me. My dad even told me. He points his finger up at your head all the time and says if I leave, he'll kill me."
Charles said his father had a gruesome plan to make the cover-up complete, by going back home and killing Eddie Jr., his wife and two daughters and taking their infant son to replace the dead baby. "We were going to take Eddie out, his family -- everybody but his little boy."
Charles said that days after the baby's death, he accompanied his father to Canton and fully intended to carry out his orders. "I went knocking on Eddie's door, but no one was home," Charles said. "I had a 9mm (pistol) stuck in the back of my pants."
From there, the father drove to the home of his brother, Otis Sexton.
Otis had become convinced his brother had sexually abused his children and had picketed the Courthouse in July 1992, protesting the failure of authorities to charge him. Eddie intended to kill Otis, too, Charles said. "My dad had a pump-action eight-shot shotgun with an 18-inch barrel he got up in Oklahoma," he told his uncle, who was present during the interview with a reporter.
"He was going to hit you from the window. He was going to wait until you come down to the door. He waited about an hour, an hour and a half, with about that much of the barrel -- 4 or 5 inches -- sticking out of the car window."
Otis, who had heard the story from Charles several days earlier, said he remembers that evening. He was tipped by a neighbor who telephoned and said there was a car sitting outside with some men in it. Otis said he watched from his bedroom window, armed with a .357-caliber pistol, until they drove away.
"I knew Eddie was out to get me," Otis said. "But I'm the only one in the family that is not afraid of Eddie. He knows it. I know that boy."
Otis, about two years the elder, grew up with Eddie, who was the youngest of 10 children of a West Virginia coal miner and his wife. Their father, who also was a Free Will Baptist preacher, moved to Ohio after he was disabled in a mine accident. He died in 1952, when Otis was 12 and Eddie about 10.
Otis went to work at 14 to help support his mother. Eddie got into trouble as a teen-ager and was sent to the state juvenile delinquent facility in Lancaster.
Otis joined the Navy and served nearly four years. Eddie joined the Army and was washed out after basic training.
Starting in May 1963, Eddie served nearly 4 1/2 years in prison after being convicted of robbery in West Virginia.
Otis speculated that Eddie became twisted sexually because he was brutalized in prison. In turn, he has brutalized his wife and children.
During the interview, Otis asked Charles, "If he had told you to shoot me, what would you have done?'
"I would have probably shot you," Charles said without a pause. "Because if I wouldn't have shot you, I would have been shot. That's the same thing that happened to Willie. That's why that boy don't deserve to be in prison."
William Sexton, along with his father, are charged with the strangulation of Joel Good, whose body was found in the Little Manatee River Recreation Area, a rope still around the neck.
Hillsborough officials say Eddie Sexton ordered Pixie and William to kill Good because Good wanted to report the baby's death.
Eddie Sexton has denied any involvement in either killing. He said he didn't report the deaths because he feared he would lose his children again.
He also denies molesting his children.
"The government is not listening. These people don't listen," Sexton said at a news conference in Tampa when the first-degree murder charges were announced. "I even wrote the president of the United States, and no one will listen."
He and his daughter, Pixie, have not answered requests for telephone interviews.
William Sexton did talk to a Beacon Journal reporter by telephone and said his father ordered the slaying at gunpoint.
"If I didn't do it, my dad said he would kill me," William Sexton said. ' He had it (a gun) in his hand."
Asked whether his father had participated in the killing in any other way -- by laying hands on Joel -- William said he was scared to say more.
"That's the only thing I'm afraid of -- that he'll get out again and get me again," he said.
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