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tv   Nightline  ABC  March 13, 2015 12:37am-1:08am PDT

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this is "nightline." >> tonight, meet the young woman taking on a wealthy and secretive church. >> screaming out for somebody to protect me. >> she says the leadership of jehovah's witnesses failed to protect her from a predatory pedophile. now other alleged victims are stepping forward to join the fight against what they call a conspiracy of silence. so what happens when we confront an alleged abuser? my name is dan harris from abc news -- >> scarlett johansson, brad pitt, halle berry. they've all turned to this home whisperer for help moving their luxury houses off the market. for transform that help bring in big bucks for sellers.
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they might also make your own home so beautiful you'll never want to leave. but first the "nightline 5." >> progressive insurance here. i'm a box who thrives on the unexpected. shall we dine? you wouldn't expect an insurance company to show you their rates and their competitors' rates. but that's precisely what we do. doing up? coming down. if you switch to progressive today you can save an average of over $500. stop it. so call me today at the number below. or is it above? dismount. oh! he sticks the landing -- number one in 60 seconds. female announcer: right now, at sleep train save hundreds on beautyrest and posturepedic. choose $300 in free gifts with tempur-pedic. even choose 48 months interest-free financing on the new tempur-choice. the triple choice sale is on now at sleep train.
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ooooh... i can hear that sizzle. getting louder! and louder! philly cheesesteak and egg sizzling with prime rib and gooey cheese. i better (just) silence this sizzle! the new philly cheesesteak and egg skillet. denny's. welcome to america's diner. thanks for joining us, i'm rebecca jarvis. you're about to meet a young woman raised jehovah's witness
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who says she was molested by a fellow church member and the church had been protecting pedophiles within their midst. now alleged victims from across the country are coming out with claims of their own. with a religion under siege, here's "nightline" coanchor dan harris. >> i can remember feeling like -- you know the inside of me is screaming out to the people in the congregation for help. >> reporter: this is the story of candace conti, a young woman stepping out of the shadows to take on the all-male leadership of a wealthy, secretive religion. >> on behalf of the north fremont congregation of jehovah jehovah's witnesses -- >> reporter: who she says failed to protect her from a predatory pedophile. >> screaming out for somebody to come protect me. >> reporter: what most of us know about the jehovah's witnesses is they may have knocked on our door as part of their global proselytizing
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campaign celebrated in church videos like these. >> bringing solace to millions in a troubled world. >> reporter: but now candace conti is out to prove that there is a dark side that church leaders ensconced in their new york city headquarters, known as the watchtower have fostered a policy of silence on child abusers. >> do not reveal the confidential talk of another. >> reporter: some of whom have gone on to repeatedly reoffend. >> do you remember your first impression of jonathan kendrick? >> he's just a big person. very scary. >> reporter: when candace was 9 years old she says she was abused by a well-liked member of her small congregation in fremont, california. while door-to-door evangelizing which candace would do without her parents, she says jonathan kendrick began taking her to his house and molesting her. >> i don't really want to go into everything else. because i don't want to have nightmares nightmares. >> right, understood. >> reporter: she testified that he abused her several times a
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month for what she says felt like two years. >> when you were a kid why did you feel like you couldn't come forward? >> bringing that up just would demolish the only people that i knew. i was scared to. >> reporter: candace had nowhere else to turn. she says because of her beliefs, she grew up isolated. >> do you remember what the church taught you about the world? >> everybody outside of the jehovah jehovah's witnesses are pretty much walking dead. >> reporter: like all jehovah's witnesses she was taught armageddon is coming soon. >> there will be a new earth, a paradise earth. >> reporter: and that the only survivors will be true believers who will live in a heaven on earth. growing up as a jehovah's witness, candace didn't celebrate birthdays or christmas and she didn't make friends outside of the church. >> anybody outside of the jehovah's witnesses could be used as a tool by satan to pull you away from your christian family. >> reporter: so it was only years later after she'd grown up and left the church when she
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found jonathan kendrick on the second oe sex offender fridge tree for abusing another child in a different congradation gation and she decided to act. >> i felt really guilty for not doing anything so that this wouldn't have happened. to somebody else. >> reporter: she went to local church leaders and told her story. >> they wouldn't listen to me unless i proved my case. >> how do you prove that you've been abused? >> you have two witnesses to the crime. >> reporter: according to the religion's internal system of justice it's believed the bible require there to be at least two witnesses in order for a crime to be punishable. >> who abuses children with two witnesses? >> nobody does. and that was precisely the point. >> reporter: though she went to the police instead, but with kendrick denying the abuse the police never brought charges, although they continue to investigate. her next move was to sue the watchtower itself. she hired a lawyer, rick simmons, who had spent many years representing the victims
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of pedophile priests in the catholic church. >> if ever there was a group that needs the sun to shine on them, it's this one. because when your doorbell rings on saturday morning and your kid answers the door you don't want that guy to be a child molester. >> reporter: when can cass and her attorney began conducting depositions with local church leaders, known as elders they learned something astonishing. >> do you recall becoming aware at any time of sexual abuse of a child by jonathan kendrick? >> yes. >> reporter: even before candace was abused the elders knew that jonathan kendrick, who then held a leadership position in the congregation, had molested his own stepdaughter. his first known victim. >> he confessed to touching her one evening when he came home. >> reporter: yet the elders did not call the police and did not warn the rest of the congregation. >> did that make you furious?
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>> yeah. i was disgusted. i was absolutely disgusted. it was more damage control at that point than saving somebody. >> what was the reason that the congregation was not notified? >> we don't make that public to the congregation. that's confidential. >> reporter: a confidentiality policy set by the church leaders back in new york. in a series of letters to elders across the country on the issue of child abuse, the watchtower made its policy clear. though they acknowledged that some states have child abuse reporting laws they said allegations should otherwise be kept secret to all but church leaders. because worldly people are quick to resort to lawsuits if they feel their rights have been violated. >> we kept an eye on his actions. while he was in the congregation. >> reporter: they also removed kendrick from his leadership position per watchtower policy on the grounds of uncleanness.
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>> the members of the north fremont congregation of jehovah's witnesses abhor child abuse of any form. >> reporter: in court attorneys for the church argued it's not the responsibility of a religious organization to protect children from sexual abuse by other congregation members. >> the jehovah's witnesses are not a youth group. >> reporter: they said the church provides education to parents on the risk of sexual abuse but they argue that candace's alleged abuse never took place on church property and they also questioned whether she was specifically assigned by the elders to go door to door preaching, known as field service, with kendrick. >> the elders did their jobs spiritually. i think that's all we can ask of these men. >> reporter: the watchtower denied our requests for interview but sent us a statement peppered with bible citations that said victims of child abuse have the right to report to governmental authorities, and that the church won't stand in their way. adding that they do not shield abusers from authorities or the consequences of their actions.
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the jurors sided with candace. in a landmark verdict in 2012 she was eventually awarded more than $15 million. the watchtower is appealing the case. >> i felt wrong and i felt dirty. >> reporter: candace conti's victory has opened the flood gates. >> i just want him to be behind bars where he belongs. >> reporter: apparently inspiring around two dozen other alleged victims from across the country to file lawsuits accusing church leadership of covering up charges of abuse. >> absolute silence. to protect itself from scandal. >> reporter: but as these alleged victims muster the courage to tell their stories, their alleged abusers, like jonathan kendrick are steering clear of the spotlight. >> going up to his house. >> reporter: he was absent from the trial and he denied our repeated requests for an
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interview. so we went to see him. >> mr. kendrick? my name is dan harris i'm from abc news can we talk about candace conti? >> my statement is this. i've never been alone with candace conti. i've never molested candace conti. >> do you really think she's just making this up? >> what do you mean, think? i just told you. >> you never did any field service with her alone? >> never. i've never -- okay. get this right. i've never been alone with candace conti, ever. never have i been alone with candace conti. >> kendrick strongly denied it. >> i'm sure that's the smart thing for him to say. but do you expect honesty from a child molester? really. >> when you told church officials about what happened with your stepdaughter do you think they should have told the rest of the congregation? >> that's not -- hey, you know what? >> i'm calling the police. >> did they tell you to keep it
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secret? >> no, of course not. >> wa you please send the police to -- >> reporter: this woman is kendrick's current wife. >> there's newspaper people here trying to get a story. >> reporter: you may remember that candace only decided to step forward after learning that kendrick had abused another child. a crime that landed him in jail for seven months. that child kendrick's third alleged victim was his wife's 7-year-old granddaughter. >> can we ask about the case of your granddaughter? >> no, you can't. >> why not? >> because it's none of your business. he paid for that crime. >> reporter: candace is now trying to move on with her life. she graduated from college and recently got engaged. but she says she will continue fighting on behalf of all of the victims of child abuse. >> it's not just me. i don't hold a monopoly on pain.
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and if we can change that momentum instead of being victims, we can have our words speak for change. this pain might be a little bit worth it. >> reporter: since candace's verdict, the church appears to have made some adjustments to its confidentiality policy when it comes to child abuse. but critics, including candace, say it's not enough. and jonathan kendrick? he says he's still a member in good standing of the jehovah's witnesses. >> you know what? if -- >> reporter: for "nightline," this is dan harris in san francisco. next meet the home whisperer to the stars who helped them pull off incredible transform medications like this. tonight, she's talking halle berry berry's dirty laundry and what you can do to spruce up your digs. oking. i would quit then i'd go right back to it. chantix absolutely helped me quit smoking. along with support, chantix (varenicline) is proven to help people quit smoking. chantix helped reduce my urge to smoke. some people had changes in behavior, thinking or mood
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tonight we're taking you inside celebrity houses with the woman who knows how to sell them. stars turn to her for help transforming, say, a batch who are pad into a beautiful home. even if you're not trying to move a luxury apartment off the market, her simple tricks will
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make your place feel like a million bucks. >> reporter: when hollywood's hottest stars from halle berry to brad pitt to scarlett johansson want to sell their homes, they turn to this woman. celebrity home stager meredith bear. >> i don't think i've met a home i couldn't make prettier. >> reporter: before christina aguilera decided to part with these swank l.a. digs and matthew perry put his malibu mansion on the market they summoned meredith for a makeover. >> beyonce. scarlett johansson. do they have as many problems as the average person's home when it comes to selling them? >> i think their homes are like anybody's. sometimes you can not have great taste. >> they have bad taste too? >> just like us. they have stacks of unread mail just like us. toys all over. sure, the whole thing. i remember we did halle berry's
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home at one point. you see her pajamas. you see all these things and you go, oh my god. these are halle berry's pajamas. >> reporter: dirty laundry aside there's a bigger reason celebs call on meredith. >> how much more will a homeowner get for that sale price by bringing you in than if they didn't have you? >> they'll get 20% more. we just did a house down the street from where i live. and it sold for $1 million over asking. >> because it was staged? >> yes. >> what are you charging? >> anywhere from $5,000 to $200,000. >> reporter: real estate broker efron smith has been working with her for 20 years. >> when you're looking to stage a home when you want to make that extra significant dollar you'll reach out to meredith. >> she's the house whisperer? >> she is the house whisperer. >> reporter: he brought her in to style this $17 million mansion in the pacific palisade palisades. >> the best thing about staging is that you're not focusing on
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the imperfections. >> the chipped paint, the uneven floors. >> the recessed lights that aren't in correctly, the sconces that aren't straight. you're focusing on the live ability of the home. >> reporter: so what's the secret to meredith's magic? for a sneak peek we headed to the hollywood hills hope of topher grace, star of "that '70s show." >> holy mother of god. >> reporter: to see a transformation with his real estate agents. >> so on a lot of celebrities have lived here. >> they have. megan may lully from "will & grace." she sold it to scott barnes her makeup artist. then scott sold that to jesse metcalf. "desperate housewives." >> reporter: hollywood pedigree but they needed meredith's help. >> bachelor pad. it needed warmth style. >> reporter: he was ready to sell but his $1.6 million home
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had been on the market four months. >> we've brought in a pretty good sized sofa. regardless of the fact that this is a rather small space. so to show to make it feel bigger actually. the mirror gives some more depth to the room. and to reflect the green. we started with the white furniture. then we started to bring in the color with the rug. we brought the colors through with the chairs. picked up the green. gave it a little theme with accessories. >> bachelor pad begone. >> yes. >> reporter: in the master bedroom, a major transformation. >> wow. this is a very different "after" than the "before." >> right, right. we do this sort of a pretend curtain. because as you see, there's actually no curtain rod. also by taking the curtain to the top, it makes the ceiling look taller. >> reporter: her sith's staging tricks led to a big payday for topher.
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>> this house sold at the first showing, six figures over asking. that's huge. >> reporter: meredith's makeovers begin here in this 80,000 square foot warehouse in downtown l.a. 175 craftsmen, movers and designers here choose from endless aisles and shelves of furniture and accessories. they have their own woodworking shop upholstery departmenton- on-site florists 8,000 pieces of art. once selections are made team meredith loads up one of their 13 trucks and heads back to their latest empty canvas. that sprawling seven bedroom, ten bath $17 million mansion in the pacific palisades. 15 minutes later -- >> this is it. >> i think it's welcoming, it's elephant el elegant, but it's comfortable. >> reporter: how can you recreate meredith's midas touch in your own home without breaking the bank? >> people need to keep it
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simple. i personally really believe that walls should be white. >> reporter: hold off on renovations and invest in white paint. >> what do you want to do in a master bedroom? >> you want it to feel like a five-star hotel. you want to come in and make it so yummy that you want to take your shoes off, put them in the closet, get your toothbrush and move in. >> reporter: crisp, white bedding. >> we often put a comforter under the sheets just to make it look really plump and yummy. crisp, white sheets. >> reporter: next tip, invest in fluffy white towels. >> roll them up. keep them fresh. load the shelves. if there's any surface that doesn't look great, just add towels. >> reporter: finally add a cookbook to the kitchen. >> so i might turn it to a recipe that looks yummy and leave it open, hint hint you can start cooking as soon as you write the check for the house. the whole idea is making someone feel like they are at home. this is their home. this is home. >> reporter: you never know, it might just be so inviting you'll
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never want to leave. just ask scarlett johansson. >> scarlett hired us to stage her home. then she saw what we did and she said, why am i selling this house? >> we'll be right back. the volkswagen passat handles like a dream. go ahead... step on it. yeah? yeah! that turbo engine packs a punch, right? oh yeah. pinch me. okay...
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our family was drifting apart... ...until we found a connection. you have the power to change your child's life. the boys town national hline can help. (tdd# 1-800-448-1433) . finally tonight, the picture currently causing a firestorm online. 8-day-old baby landon cradled in an american flag. the newborn's mom served in the military. his dad is in the navy. even with that patriotic back
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background the image is going viral with some calling it disrespectful to use the flag in that way. the photographer is a navy vet herself. telling abc news tonight she had no ill intent. so is this baby picture darling? or disrespectful? head to our "nightline" facebook page and led us know what you think about the furor over the flag. thank you for watching abc news. tune into "good morning america" tomorrow. as always, we are online at abcnews.com. good night, america.
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