In 1969, a twenty-eight year old Bobby Sessions met a young woman named Linda Brotherton. They had both just come out of rocky marriages, and Linda quickly fell in love with Bobby, who was flirtatious and brass–everything that her former husband hadn’t been. Linda’s previous marriage had been violent, and she was happy to be around Bobby, who apparently doted on her and her three year old daughter, Shelley.
Linda and Bobby married in Houston, Texas, and Bobby began working in the oil industry. He was ambitious and motivated, and within several years Bobby found himself in Manhattan working as the vice president of Amerada Hess. The Sessions family lived in New Jersey and Bobby commuted into Manhattan every day. After several years he took a job in Houston as an oil-trader, a job that would earn Bobby Sessions millions of dollars. At thirty-eight Bobby Sessions had made enough money to move back to his hometown of Corsicana, Texas and retire.
Unbeknownst to Linda, Bobby began molesting his thirteen year old step-daughter when they were still living in Houston. At first Bobby claimed to Shelley that it was a way for them to become closer, and because Shelley was physically afraid of her step-father, she didn’t tell anyone. The attacks from her step-father only increased after the family moved to Corsicana, and Bobby became more and more possessive of his step-daughter. As Bobby became more overtly manipulative of Shelley, Linda withdrew from the family totally, presumably as a way to hide herself from Bobby’s disgustingly brazen behavior.
I won’t summarize the whole book, but the life of Shelley Sessions is disturbing and disgusting. As Shelley gets older and begins to realize the hellishness of her life, she attempts to get help, but Bobby’s position in the rural community made it difficult for her to find someone willing to take on the local millionaire. Thankfully, there was one exception. The pastor of a local church, Henry Edgington, risked his life to help the young Shelley Sessions. Edgington was the first person Shelley told about her father, the pederast. In the book Dark Obsession, Shelley reminisces about Edgington, “Everybody loved Henry. He was, like, best friend to everybody. And, you know, he was always there. We all used to hang out with him. So he seemed like the person to tell.”
The excerpt that follows occurs immediately after Shelley finally opens up to Henry Edgington about the tragedy that was her life:
“Don’t worry Shelley,” [Edgington] said. “Nobody’s going to touch you again.”
Henry ushered Shelley and Jackie into his living room. Shelley felt safe, if not completely comfortable. Part of her was even wondering why she hadn’t done this sooner.
Edgington didn’t condemn her or call her a slut. Though she trusted him, Shelley fully expected a man of the cloth to be disgusted by her “confession.” When he wasn’t, she felt washed by a soothing wave.
“All of a sudden I could see all this relief on her,” recalled Edgington. “It was finally out in the open and she knew something was going to be done about it and she was going to get out of this stupid mess…Now that he knew the truth, Edgington wasn’t going to take any chances in getting Shelley to Corsicana. It was a straight ten-mile drive, and it went by [Bobby Sessions’] ranch. And he was worried that Bobby might now be desperate enough to do something rash.
He called his friends on the Kerens and Powell police departments and told them not to worry if they saw him speeding by–he was taking Shelley Sessions to Corsicana [to the police dept.].
Edgington now motored a little four-wheel gem out of his garage: a 1923 T-Bucket Roadster with an incongruous throaty idle that seemed to rattle the entire machine, and as Edgington described it, “this big beautiful chrome Chevrolet engine, the best thing that could have happened to a Ford.” The pastor was a car buff–especially hot rods. “We were afraid that Bob was going to be waiting for us,” he recalled, “so I wanted to use the Roadster. It had a 327 built-up engine with almost 400 horse-power, and I could blow anything off the road. These Roadsters will do 160.”
Edgington ended up getting Shelley to Corsicana safely, and he eventually helped her extricate herself from the claws of Bobby Sessions.
The first time I heard about this story wasn’t in a bookstore or via a book review. No, the first time I heard this story was from Henry’s own mouth. He had been the pastor of the Church of Christ in West, Texas, for several years, and I was good friend with his oldest son, Chris. I was spending the night with Chris one weekend, and while we where playing the Nintendo in his room he began to tell me this tale. We were in eighth grade, and I thought he was having me on. Since I kept telling him he was full of shit, Chris finally called his dad into the room and asked him to tell me the story of Shelley Sessions. Henry really didn’t want to, but he reluctantly told me an abbreviated version of the story.
After I got home that weekend I immediately called Waldenbooks and ordered the book. After I read it I couldn’t believe that the same guy I saw at least twice a week was an honest-to-goodness hero. I already thought the world of Henry, but after I read the book I was totally amazed by the guy.
I went through some pretty tough times after high school, and on several occasions I sought out Henry to help get me through those times. He was always there for me when I needed him, despite going through some rough patches with his own family.
So it pained me more than I can possibly explain when I found out that on September 8th, Waco police arrested Henry Edgington for possession of child pornography. Henry was an assistant pastor at the Elm Mott Church of Christ, a position which he resigned from immediately before his arrest. Henry told the police that he was researching pornographic sites in an attempt to shut them down.
The parishioners at the Elm Mott Church of Christ are standing behind Henry. They claim he told them of his investigation and they supported him in it.
I hope with all my heart Henry actually thought he was doing a good thing. A little part of me will simply shrivel up and die if Henry isn’t as heroic as I’ve always thought him to be.