Girl’s father testifies against ‘urban monk’ accused of sex abuse

Kent County
A mug shot of James Wallace Treadwell on May 9, 2020.

A mug shot of James Wallace Treadwell on May 9, 2020.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Christian artist who lived a life of celibacy and described himself as an “urban monk” is headed to trial on a second set of charges that he sexually molested a child. 

James Treadwell was in a Kent County courtroom Wednesday as a father told a judge about how he watched as his 8-year-old daughter was victimized. 

Because the alleged victim is a child, News 8 is not using the name of the father. 

He told a tale of a predator who insinuated himself into the family’s life, became a beloved friend and then sexually assaulted the child in the family’s own home. 

The family met Jamie Treadwell in 2015 at a neighbor’s home in East Grand Rapids, where the ArtPrize artist displayed his work.

“I was very impressed by Jamie himself, by his artwork, by the stories behind the artwork,” the father told Judge Jeffrey O’Hara in Kent County District Court. “I remember commenting to my wife that I felt so honored and blessed to have Jamie as part of my life.” 

Treadwell’s artwork was featured at ArtPrize and he was the artist in residence for Potter’s House School, where he also allegedly molested a young student

After meeting the family, Treadwell began going to the same church, Sherman Street Christian Reformed Church, and sat in the same pew. The father said Treadwell also began coming to the house in East Grand Rapids, both by invitation and just dropping in, even spending time there overnight and on a vacation. The accused was close with the family’s two daughters, 8 and 11 — he spent more time with them than the parents, the father testified. The 8-year-old loved him.

“When she made a birthday poster for school, she named him as her hero,” the father told the court. 

On Sept. 18, 2016, while the defendant was at the home with the 8-year-old child on his lap, the father said he watched Treadwell was caressing her thighs, her bottom and then moved to her private areas, where he rubbed her. He said he was frozen and couldn’t think of what to do.

“I don’t know what happened beyond that. I was so flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe I had seen it,” the father said.

Treadwell was never allowed back in the home and they never sat together at church again. 

Ten days before police were informed, they talked to the pastor. 

“I asked our pastor if we should go to the police and he told us that we should not. He told me that I should not,” the father said.  

Sherman Street has different people serving as pastors since 2019. 

During the 10 days before they went to police, the parents prepared a written log of what happened. Defense attorney Larry Wiley used that log to try and show that the touching may have been accidental. Wiley pointed out that after the alleged molestation, the family watched a movie together, even with the child on the defendant’s lap.  

O’Hara determined there was enough evidence to send the case to Kent County Circuit Court for felony proceedings.

Treadwell faces as much as 15 years in prison on the second-degree criminal sexual conduct charges. 

His other two charges from Wyoming are from 2015 or 2016, when the alleged victim was in fourth or fifth grade. 

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