Toby Willis, the dad from the TLC reality series The Willis Family, pleaded guilty today to four counts of child rape and received two 25-year sentences and two 40-year sentences. Those sentences are to be served concurrently at 100 percent, which means he will serve 40 years and will not be getting out until 2057.
The four counts stem from an incident involving a young girl between the ages of 9 and 12 that occurred roughly 12 years ago. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation began their investigation of the rape charges back in August, and in September, Toby Willis was arrested in Kentucky after attempting to evade capture by hitchhiking out of state.
Thanks in part to complications arising from Toby’s psychiatric evaluation, his case was delayed multiple times before a Cheatham County Court finally heard the case today.
After his conviction and sentencing, Toby’s wife Brenda Willis and the Willis family (photo above) issued the following statement through their attorney, Bill Speek:
The Willis family would like to thank their family, friends and fans for the outpouring of love and support during this most difficult year. Additionally, the Willis family would like to thank the many members of law enforcement for their detailed and comprehensive investigation of this matter. Finally, the family would like to thank the District Attorney’s office for their diligence and sensitivity in the handling of this case. The family has remained fully cooperative throughout the investigation. Although the criminal case has concluded with Toby Willis receiving 40 years for the crimes he committed, the impact on the victims will remain much longer. The family is appreciative and grateful that people have respected their need for privacy during this trying time and asks for continued respect as they seek to move forward.
Toby Willis and his musical family of 14, who perform as The Willis Clan, first gained national attention when they competed on the 9th season of America’s Got Talent and made it all the way to the quarter finals. They were later approached by TLC and starred in the network’s reality show The Willis Family for two seasons.
The family was able to focus on their musical endeavors due in part to a tragedy in Toby’s past as he and the surviving members of his family were awarded a large settlement stemming from an accident that killed six of his eight siblings.
Soon after Toby Willis’ arrest, TLC canceled The Willis Family prior to a third season. The show was yet another one for the network featuring a family from the South that got caught up in a sex scandal involving a child or children, including Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and 19 Kids and Counting.