Toby Willis was arrested for child rape on Friday. The father of 12 is best known for the TLC reality show, “The Willis Family.”
Willis’ arrest is the result of a sting by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. Authorities say the reality star had sex with an underage female roughly 12 years ago. Due to the statute of limitations not yet expiring, Willis was able to now be arrested for the crime more than a decade later.
Officials took him into custody in Kentucky, where he allegedly fled to avoid arrest. He’s currently being held without bond, and will be extradited back to Tennessee. It’s unclear if the victim is one of Willis’ own children, who are as old as 24. His youngest is just 5.
The entire family, known as “The Willis Clan,” appears on the “The Willis Family” reality series, which started airing last year. Prior to the show, the group had a semi-successful run on season 9 of “America’s Got Talent” as a family band that dances and sings. They were eliminated during the quarterfinals back in the summer of 2014.
But their appeal wholesome appeal piqued the interest of TLC, which began documenting their life. The second season of the show finished airing this past April. Now this is at least the third disturbing sex scandal for the network.
As Gossip Cop reported, “Honey Boo Boo” was canceled in 2014 after family matriarch Mama June began dating a convicted sex offender, who had previously molested one of her own daughters. Then last year, not long after “The Willis Family” premiered, it was revealed that “19 Kids And Counting” star Josh Duggar had molested several minors when he was a teen, including his own siblings.
Later in 2015, Duggar confessed to a porn addiction after he was caught in the Ashley Madison cheating scandal. “19 Kids” was canceled as a result of all the unseemly drama, though a spinoff show called “Counting On” is ongoing. TLC has not commented on Willis’ arrest, but the page for “The Willis Family” on the network’s website now leads to a 404 message.
The family’s own “The Willis Clan” website is also no longer accessible, though their Facebook page is still up. And, oddly, they joked about an arrest just two days ago. See photo below, as well as video of the family’s “America’s Got Talent” audition, which has racked up more than six million views on YouTube.
UPDATE: TLC, which claims to conduct background checks, says “The Willis Family” was canceled in May, though the network was unaware of the patriarch’s alleged past. “TLC did not renew ‘The Willis Family,’ and new episodes have not aired since April 2016. We are shocked to hear this news,” reads a statement.