The Rev. Henry Lyons
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Jacksonville woman is upset by attention
By MONICA DAVEY, Times Staff Writer
JACKSONVILLE -- As her story of abuse at the hands of the Rev. Henry J. Lyons became public Friday, Earlene Nelson Battle remained silent, distraught and confused by the attention.
"She is disheartened," said the Rev. Moses Javis, Battle's pastor, who spoke to her on Friday. "She says all this talk is just messing her life up. She doesn't know what to do."
The 47-year-old widow did not answer her door Friday. But in 1988, she told a lawyer that Lyons had started a romance with her after the pair met at a revival meeting.
The relationship turned violent and she became suicidal, she told the lawyer. She went to John B. Monroe hoping to hold Lyons accountable for her deep depression and abuse.
Records obtained by the Times show Lyons and organizations affiliated with him paid Battle at least $1,700 in the months after she threatened legal action.
According to Javis, Lyons promised to pay Battle a total of $200,000. Javis said Battle told him about the debt.
The shades were drawn at Battle's home Friday. Her quiet North Jacksonville neighborhood beside a creek became chaotic as news reporters waited by her door. At one point, police were called.
"She feels trapped," Javis said.
Battle, who babysits for her granddaughter, is a friendly, but quiet longtime resident, neighbors said. She rarely goes out -- except for church and family picnics, they said.
Battle, a devout Baptist and native of Georgia, has three grown children, according to a sworn deposition taken as part of a 1984 lawsuit. (Battle sued a motorist who collided with her car in her neighborhood in 1983, leaving her with back, neck and leg pains. The suit was later dismissed.)
After graduating from high school in Georgia in 1968, she married John Battle. They separated after having two children, the deposition said. John Battle later died.
After brief stints in Trenton, N.J., and Levittown, Pa., the family moved to Jacksonville about 1977, the deposition said. Battle worked as a secretary at Sears and later as a forklift operator at Livingston Export Co. She also served as a recording secretary in the local Teamsters union.
In 1981, Battle, then 30, was charged with public assistance fraud. Duval County prosecutors said Battle was not reporting her job income to the government organizations from which she was accepting financial help. Adjudication was withheld in her case.
Her pain from the 1983 car accident severely limited her abilities to work, ride bikes with her children, cook dinner or clean, the deposition said. It even led to a breakup with her then live-in boyfriend, John Myers, she said.
"Because I had no room for anybody but myself. You know, I was always in pain. I couldn't perform anything or duties that I was performing before. More or less my whole life was turned around and he couldn't take it, I suppose."
Battle is not employed, Javis said. She is active in his church, Day Spring Baptist, and is expected to attend the National Baptist Convention USA's annual meeting in Denver.
There, Lyons' future depends on an internal investigating committee. That group may add Battle's allegations to their list of more than 100 questions about Lyons' finances, his relationships and his monitoring of convention funds.
Battle is the third woman to be romantically linked to Lyons, who has been married for 25 years to Deborah Lyons.
Lyons could not be reached for comment on Friday.
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