Toby Willis, Father from TLC’s The Willis Family, Arrested on Child Rape Charges
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations announced that they began investigating Toby Nathaniel Willis, 46, on Aug. 29, and discovered that he allegedly had a sexual encounter with an underage girl in Nashville about 12 years ago.
TBI agents say they arrested Willis in Greenville, Kentucky, where he reportedly fled from his home in Ashland City, Tennessee to avoid police. He was charged with one count of rape of a child.
Willis and his family starred on TLC’s The Willis Family, which followed their life as a musical family of 14. Toby, his wife Brenda, and their 12 children first rose to fame when they reached the quarterfinals of season nine of America’s Got Talent.
“We are shocked to hear the news,” the network said in a statement.
TLC has removed The Willis Family page from its website.
A source tells PEOPLE that the show was canceled back in May, shortly after their second season aired.
“The family was alerted of the cancellation back in may 2016,” the source said. “The network performed extensive background checks on all the family [members] and found no issues.
“Obviously this is something they were never aware of,” the source added.
The Christian family’s conservative beliefs played a role in their TLC series. However, during an interview with PEOPLE last year, the couple’s oldest daughter Jessica said their household isn’t restrictive.
“We didn’t have a lot of restrictions,” Jessica said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Don’t do this!’ It was more like, ‘Try this or that.’ We’re always encouraged to do more things, but our parents are right there to catch us if it is a bridge too far.”
“We try to just kind of stay true to what the Bible says and live that in a very loving, nonjudgmental way without pushing that on anyone else,” Toby’s wife Brenda told PEOPLE at the time.
Back in 2014, Willis told WGN TV that he had a relaxed attitude towards life.
“We wake up in the morning and say what’s gonna happen today? It just seems like the roller coaster goes up and down up and down,” he said. “After a while you quit trying to grab on and quit trying to steer, you just throw your hands up and go let’s just enjoy the ride.”
Willis is being held in the Muhlenberg County Jail in Kentucky without bond as a fugitive from justice, and will be moved to Cheatham County Jail in his hometown, where he will also be held without bond, according to the TBI statement.