Sleepovers With Uncle Jeff

The cardiologist traded on his status as a doctor to fondle young girls

This was important to Buck because, according to some former church members, Buck liked money. He drove a gold Cadillac paid for by mostly working-class church members who didn't want anyone to think their shepherd led a self-­centered flock. In addition to his Beaumont home, he owned a lake house and a bunch of rental properties. Church members contributed to the L.C. Treadway Retirement Fund. He put a premium on tithing, something that became even more apparent when he launched his annual "medical community outreach."

"It just seemed so blatantly obvious," former church member Marsha Hamilton says. "We didn't have these annual days to support teachers and service-workers or anybody else."

Buck's interest in the finer things ran counter to the tenets of Pentecostalism, which stresses modesty — especially among women. According to the United Pentecostal Church's interpretation of the Bible, women's attire should reflect "shamefacedness and sobriety." Pants are also frowned upon for women, because "often it takes a second glance to determine the sex of a woman today." Women must also subjugate themselves to men, who, it conveniently turns out, don't have such strict wardrobe requirements. "The New Testament does not provide instructions expressly for men's clothing," the UPCI Web site states. "Apparently, immodest dress was not as much of a problem for men in those days."

Don't worry — Dr. Klem is not a registered sex offender.
Courtesy Jefferson County Sheriff's Office
Don't worry — Dr. Klem is not a registered sex offender.
Jeff and Beth Klem were a model couple at New Life Tabernacle.
Jeff and Beth Klem were a model couple at New Life Tabernacle.

The UPCI traces its roots back to 1916, when a group of preachers split from the Assemblies of God, disagreeing with that church's vision of God as a trinity. The split resulted in the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ. These merged in 1945 as the United Pentecostal Church International, which is today headquartered in a suburb of St. Louis.

While the UPCI has its own president ("superintendent") and board of directors, and while it has the power to issue and revoke ministerial licenses, congregations are autonomous, and any supervision is left to district offices. The UPCI, as an organization, serves mostly as a ministers' union, and holds annual conferences to vote on important issues. For example, at the September 2007 conference, ministers passed a resolution allowing Pentecostal services to be televised, a somewhat odd vote, given that the UPCI finds television "unsuitable for Christians or for their homes."

Of course, one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the UPCI is that it believes members show proof of receiving God's grace by speaking in tongues. "Speaking in tongues symbolizes God's complete control of the believer," the UPCI Web site states.

And, until August 2006, Buck Treadway had complete control over his congregation. A charismatic man and ­natural-born public speaker, Buck commanded authority. He could boast of an impressive lineage; his father was a prominent pastor in Louisiana, and his grandfather was the UPCI's first superintendent of the Louisiana district.

Buck came to New Life Tabernacle in 1969 with his wife Patsy, six-year-old son Leslie and baby girl Beth. Another son and daughter would follow. The congregation credits Buck's vision for creating the church's school, New Life Christian Academy.

But periodically, according to some former church members, Buck would call special meetings where he'd lash out at people he felt did not meet the church's standards.

"It does not pay in the long run to cross Treadway, simple as one two three," says one former church member, who asked not to be identified, saying she feared retribution from Buck and his supporters. "You make him mad, there will be repercussions. He's a very dominating man, he's a very strong-willed person and he does not take criticism very well at all. In fact, he just doesn't take it."

This criticism had already proved evident in his public lashing of daughter Kathie, but it soon spread to his other children, who came to him a few years ago with a real problem.

Of course, the stories of what actually happened next are wildly ­different.

"He used to make these little comments like, 'You're beautiful. I have beautiful little nieces.' And it'd just make my flesh crawl."

— Brea Treadway, 14

"I'm not going to say that they're telling their clients what to say; I don't believe that. But you can certainly create an environment where the plaintiffs...feel comfortable making it up as they go."

— Civil defense attorney Kip Lamb

No one disputes the fact that, in 2003, Buck's son Leslie and his second wife Lisa came to Buck with a grave concern.

Ashlee McEntire, Lisa's ten-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, had accused Klem of touching her during a sleepover at his house. Brea, Leslie's nine-year-old daughter from his first marriage, was at the same sleepover and was alleging the same thing. So this, according to Leslie and Lisa, was the first time Buck was made aware of a pedophile at his church.

Leslie and Lisa told Klem they wouldn't notify authorities if Klem promised to leave the girls alone. At this time, Leslie had no idea Klem had been molesting his daughter Ashlyn for the last four years.

But Kip Lamb, who's representing Buck, Klem and New Life Tabernacle, says it wasn't so sinister.

"New Life Tabernacle has not had any...child abuse complaints in decades," Lamb says. "However, several years ago...a very minor incident was mentioned to the pastor and recanted, and the parents of that child expressed doubts that it was even true."

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