Father Claims He Was Abused By Hunichen In Child Abuse Trial
Posted January 11, 2000 6:00 a.m. EST
RALEIGH — The trial of a Wake County minister took a new turn on Wednesday. Howard Hunichen is accused of critically injuring a baby in his care. Now the child's father, Kevin Fortner, claims he was also abused by Hunichen.
Kevin Fortner testified that he allowed Hunichen to take over his family because he believed Hunichen was God's anointed one.
"I felt helpless. I felt powerless," said Fortner. "I felt like a shell of a man, and I didn't feel like a man."
Fortner said his 7-month-old son Zachary was not the only one abused by Hunichen. He said Hunichen frequently abused him.
Fortner said one time Hunichen threw him on the couch, beat him and bloodied his nose.
"He grabbed me around by the throat with his arm and he just started squeezing my neck and said, 'Don't you know I can kill you,'" Fortner said.
Fortner said fear and shame caused him to stand back and watch Hunichen discipline Zachary, often pushing him, kicking him and allowing him to fall repeatedly.
"He said Zachary was lazy with his strength. He would talk about how strong he was. He should be able to walk, but he is a lazy child," Fortner said. "He has no will, and he remarked that he was just like me."
Hunichen sobbed as the 911 tapes of attempts to revive Zachary were played in court.
Fortner showed little emotion, only a strong resolve to put the man he believes is responsible for Zachary's injuries behind bars.
"He says if you all don't say anything, and I don't say anything, then they can't do anything to anybody," Fortner said. "I'm here to tell the truth and that is exactly what I am doing."
Fortner says regardless of what happens to him, he wants justice for his son.
Fortner also said after Zachary allegedly fell, Hunichen came out of the bedroom carrying the child by his ankle. Both Fortner and his wife Lisa say they did not abuse their son. Both are charged with felony child abuse.
Lisa Fortner is expected to testify on Thursday.