BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A former preacher sentenced to 15 years in prison for molesting young boys is now free after serving only half the time. Reverend Bennie McFarland, a former minister from Baker, was sentenced in 2005 and was released early Tuesday morning. His victims are asking why.
A father of two of the victims says he was shocked when he learned McFarland had been released from Davis Wade Correctional Center, in Houma. Shocked he says, because his family never received official notification that McFarland was being released.
It was a victory for the victims, leaving the courthouse in 2005 knowing Bennie McFarland would be behind bars. Between 1990 and 1998, McFarland, who was a minister at Hightime Evangelistic Center in Baker, performed sex acts with four boys and improperly touched another in his church office. He plead guilty to three counts, rather than face conviction on nine.
"One was eight when it started. And the other was in the mid-teens," said the father of two of the victims.
The church sign bearing McFarland's name has been replaced, but the father says just when his family was starting to move on, he got word from the mother of another victim that McFarland was coming home.
At 12:01 Tuesday morning, McFarland was released after serving seven years.
The father of the two of McFarland's victims says none of the victims were ever notified. Under the new Victim's Rights Act, the law now requires victims be notified when their offender is released. When they left court in 2005, they say they were told by District Attorney Doug Moreau's office McFarland could not get out early.
"Will he do all 15 years? And the answer we got from D.A.'s office at the time was yes," said the father.
District Attorney Hillar Moore's office says it is not unusual for McFarland to be released early, but Sanders says his family wants more answers on what may have changed since '05.
"These victims, who many are still dealing with what happened to them, what about the justice and legal system and all that?" the father asked.
9News tried to talk with McFarland, but no one answered the door at his Baker home.
McFarland will have to register as a sex offender. The district attorney's office says this situation is exactly why they encourage victims to register under the new Victims Rights Act.