At press time, a pastor at Christ Community Chapel in Hudson, who has been jailed in the Philippines since his Jan. 12 arrest, was still awaiting a court hearing to see if he will go on trial in connection with a human trafficking case or be freed.
Tom Randall of Stow was charged with "negligence" by Filipino authorities after accusations of misconduct were brought against Sankey Samaritan Orphanage, which Randall founded.
"According to Filipino court filing procedures, Randall can be held for 15 days, or until Jan. 29, when he will either be released from this charge and prison, or a decision will be made to try him for negligence in court," according to a church press release issued when Jan. 23. "Several hearing dates have been scheduled and rescheduled."
Randall's wife Karen said Jan. 23 that she "heard a hearing may occur in the next 24 hours."
Authorities originally investigated the orphanage after a complaint that a worker kissed a 15-year-old girl, according to Joe Coffey, pastor of Christ Community Chapel. The complaint of misconduct was investigated and dropped by Filipino officials.
"Following this dismissal, an additional accusation of human trafficking was made leading to Tom's arrest and the removal of the children from the orphanage by the Anti-Human Trafficking Division of the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation]," according to the press release. "Randall has since been charged with negligence, not trafficking or sexual abuse as originally accused."
Two workers from the orphanage, Toto and Jake Luchavez, were also arrested.
After Randall's Jan. 12 arrest, about 30 orphans living at the orphanage were removed, questioned and released, according to the church. Some of the orphans cannot be contacted due to the government closing the orphanage.
"They are scattered here and there, and we are hoping we can be together again," according to Karen. "Until then, remember them in your prayers."
Coffey said he believes Randall is innocent.
"While we believe Tom is not guilty of negligence, our fervent hope is for the safety and care of the children removed from Sankey Samaritan," Coffey said. "Our hope is that the accusations are untrue, that nothing happened to those children. But more than that, we pray for the truth to be made known and justice to be served if necessary."
A Free Tom Randall page has more than 25,000 likes from supporters since its Jan. 14 creation. The page is neither owned or maintained by the church, according to officials.
"We don't take these accusations lightly," Coffey added, "But we believe the evidence will result in the government dropping the case against Tom. While we wait we are becoming increasingly concerned for Tom's health."
Randall has been diagnosed with toxic poisoning from air pollution encountered during his nearly 20 years of living in Manila. Due to the lack of filtered air, Randall is suffering from "extreme dehydration, vomiting, pneumonia and other symptoms, as a result of his poisoned system," according to the church.
Filipino officials could not be reached for comment.