Toby Willis, former TLC star, arraigned on 4 counts of child rape

Accused child rapist Toby Willis is seen in his mugshot. Tennessee Bureau of Investigations/AP

Toby Willis, the patriarchal star of former TLC show The Willis Family, was arraigned Monday on four charges of child rape.

Willis, 46, pleaded not guilty. His trial is set to begin on July 18, 2017, reports The Tennessean.

A father of 12, Willis was arrested in September 2016 and charged with one count of child rape after an alleged interaction with an underage girl in Nashville over a decade ago. According to court documents, a relative of Willis’ also accused him of sexual assault.

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He was caught by police after he tried to flee his home and avoid arrest. His wife, Brenda Willis, was taken aback by the arrest and charges.

“I was shocked and devastated by the revelation of events leading to Toby Willis’ arrest,” she wrote in a statement to the media. “As these are very trying times for the Willis family, I kindly ask all to respect our family’s privacy. As a mother of 12, my first priority remains with my children and helping them through this traumatic event.”

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People magazine reports that the family is “truly hurting, and trying to figure out how to carry on with their lives.”

Willis was being held in the Muhlenberg County Jail in Kentucky without bond because he was believed to be a flight risk, but was moved to Cheatham County Jail in his hometown of Ashland City, Tenn. He will continue to be held without bond.

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The Willis family first made waves in 2014 when they reached the quarterfinals on Season 9 of America’s Got Talent. Shortly thereafter, The Willis Family premiered on TLC. The reality show followed Willis, his wife and their children (whose names all start with the letter “J,” much like another TLC family, the Duggars). The series wasn’t renewed past a first season, and its final episode aired in April 2016.

This isn’t the first reality-star scandal TLC has had to deal with; Josh Duggar, one of the family members of 19 Kids and Counting, admitted to sexually molesting five underage girls 13 years ago. TLC ultimately cancelled the show after a brief hiatus. Duggar sought treatment at a faith-based rehabilitation centre and was released in August 2015.

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