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Sex abuse charges dropped against church leaders in southwest Mo.

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A sign marks the entrance to the Grand Valley farm. As recently as this spring, about 100 people lived on the farm. Today, only about two dozen remain. (photo from Doualy Xaykaothao/NPR)

By AP/KWMU

Pineville, Mo. –

To hear NPR's story about the case, which aired in December 2006, click here.

Prosecutors have dropped a child sex abuse case against the leader of a southwest Missouri church commune, his wife and his sister-in-law.

A week before the scheduled trial, prosecutors dismissed all charges against the Rev. Raymond Lambert; his wife, Patty Lambert; and Laura Epling, the wife of a church deacon.

The clerk's office for the 40th Circuit Court in McDonald County confirmed that the charges were dropped but could not provide further details.

Prosecutors and the Lamberts' lawyer did not immediately return calls for comment.

The case drew national attention in August 2006 when the Lamberts and two relatives were charged with multiple counts for allegedly abusing young girls for many years at their Baptist community on an isolated Ozarks farm.

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