Former Pastor Lewis Lee met Elizabeth Thomsen when she was just 12-years old. Cops say that as a true predator, Lee singled her out from the beginning.
Elizabeth was the third of six children who worked on the family's dairy farm in Chenango County, in New York. The work load was demanding, so the Thomsen kids were home-schooled by their parents. Marsha and Michael Thomsen also wanted to instill Christian values in their children. So they looked to the Christian Baptist Church for spiritual guidance.
Lee was the leader of the small congregation of about 50 members for three years. He conducted the Sunday services with amazing charisma. Lee developed a reputation as a smooth talker, and was known for his dynamic personality, especially with women.
He provided spiritual guidance to the community and the members deeply trusted him. Cops say that no one would have guessed that he would eventually lead one their most beloved astray.
Cops say Lee manipulated Elizabeth by convincing her that her family was against her and that she had potential to be a famous singer.
Gaining Trust, Growing Discontent
For the three years Lee led the church, he gained the respect of his following, including the Thomsen family. However, over time Marsha and Mike became concerned with the attention he was giving their daughter.
Elizabeth, experiencing the normal growing pains of adolescence, was unhappy with household chores and cops say she was disconnecting from her family. The emotions were intensified by what cops say was Lee's brainwashing and manipulation. She had dreams of becoming a singer and had shown natural talent. Police say Lee fostered discontent by saying that she had the potential to be a star, but her family didn't support her.
The Thomsens were in a struggle between respecting their faith and religious leader, and protecting their daughter.
But then on January 31, 2006 Lee was caught peering in to Elizabeth's window. The Thomsens called the police and Lee was immediately arrested for stalking and trespassing. As part of his arrest, he was banned from communicating with Elizabeth.
Out of embarassment, Lee relocated his family to Maryland. Still, cops say regardless of the law and the distance between them, Lee continued to call Elizabeth a daily basis.
During these calls, cops say he and Elizabeth made a plan to run off together.
More Lies and Manipulation
On March 17, 2006, Lee took out a loan for $10,000, telling his wife he needed the money to go to truck driving school in North Carolina. Cops say that this was a brazen lie and that Lee was already in New York to pick up Elizabeth when he called her.
Because Elizabeth left a note, echoing what cops say were the same lines of manipulation Lee had used, that she was unloved, police initially believed that she had run away. After some quick investigating, all signs pointed to Lee.
Cops say the two were on the run since March 18, 2006. They have been traced to Sevier County and also other rural areas of east Tennessee. The Saturday before Easter, police say that Lee was seen dropping off five Easter baskets at a female relative's house in Maryland, about 45 minutes drive from Interstate 95.
On April 17, 2006, the pair was taken into police custody in Western Maryland after Lee's truck had been identified at his workplace.
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