NaToyia Wilson decided to share her story in public for the first time.
“Do I sound nervous?” the 33-year-old mother said with a slightly trembling voice followed by a nervous laugh as she stood behind the lectern Friday, April 24 at Platte City United Methodist church.
Through strained emotions and a collection of napkins to collect her tears, Wilson detailed the sexual abuse she suffered as a child and the protective culture that existed in her family for too long as the keynote speaker at the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office’s 10th annual Victims’ Rights Breakfast. This year’s event focused on the recent passage of Missouri Constitutional Amendment 2, not available to Wilson’s family during the 2014 prosecution of NaToyia’s uncle, Fentress Wilson.
Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd and assistant Chris Seufert played a big role in the campaign for the measure, which passed with an overwhelming 80 percent support in November, 2014.
The new amendment made Missouri the final state to approve a measure allowing evidence of prior offenses allowed into evidence against those suspected of sexual abuse against children. Supporters believe this helps alleviate the need for young victims to face their accusers alone during the trial process.
“I am proud of the small part I played, but I’m just one of many cogs in the wheel who made this happen,” said Seufert, who drafted the original language for the amendment while working in the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office.
NaToyia Wilson served as a supporter for Amendment 2, based on her personal experience.
A graduate of UMKC, Wilson currently works for the civil rights division of the Kansas City Human Relations Department. She previously served as a victim advocate in the Johnson County (Kan.) District Attorney’s Office, but she tearfully told of how she went from advocate to working with other advocates as a victim of her uncle’s abuse.
“I consoled individuals. I consoled them because I knew how much it hurt,” Wilson said. “I consoled because I understood how violated one feels after being wronged. I also consoled because those being victimized should never have to walk the path of healing alone.
“All the while, while I was advocating, consoling, soothing and reassuring individuals, I never realized the day would come when I needed to be consoled. I just never thought about it. It never crossed my mind that that day would arrive.”
NaToyia Wilson and multiple relatives and family friends were allegedly molested across of more than three decades.
Fentress Wilson, the man responsible, was finally caught in the act of physical sexual abuse against his granddaughter. NaToyia specifically started put the pieces together of her own experiences and that of others to realize her uncle’s pattern of behavior.
Fentress Wilson, 50, was eventually found guilty abusing the eight-year-old girl, but the trial occurred in two phases before he was eventually sentenced to life in prison in September, 2014, although the 50-year-old would be eligible for parole in 2052.
In the first stage of the trial, prosecutors proved Wilson had sexually abused the eight-year old girl. In the second, they showed cause for the defendant being a predatory sexual offender because he had abused the child more than once and had abused more than one child.
That included the testimony of NaToyia Wilson and others.
“It ended with (the most recent victim), but it certainly didn’t start with her,” NaToyia Wilson said.
The breakfast, started by current legal assistant Jill Baker and continues with work from Platte County victims’ advocate Tanya Faherty, also included the presentation of the Sara Andrasek Memorial Award, which is given each year to a person or group doing exceptional work to help victims of crime.
Zahnd honored Jennifer Atterbury for her work in raising funds to secure the passage of Amendment 2. She currently serves as a prosecutor for the City of Lee’s Summit (Mo.) and has worked with multiple agencies dedicated to stopping abuse against children.
The award is named in honor of a Platte County woman who was raped and murdered in 2001 while pregnant with her first child. Zahnd’s office and the Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department were in the final stages of preparing a death penalty case against Wayne Dumond when he died while in custody accused of multiple crimes.