It’s a tragic story about what seemed to be the all-American family. The Willis Clan, a country music-inspired singing group known to have played throughout Nashville, including dates on the Grand Ole Opry, seemed to have it all going for them: a promising career, a reality TV show and the love of a mother, father and 12 adoring children.

But then, it was revealed that the father, 47-year-old Toby Willis, had done the unthinkable.

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The patriarch of The Willis Clan pleaded guilty on July 11 to four counts of child rape, and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was first arrested back in September 2016 after an investigation showed that he had raped a girl who was in the 9- to 12-year-old age range about 12 years ago.

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The family has issued the following statement:

“The Willis family would like to thank their family, friends, and fans for the outpouring of love and support during this most difficult year. Additionally, the Willis family would like to thank the many members of law enforcement for their detailed and comprehensive investigation of this matter. Finally, the family would like to thank the District Attorney’s office for their diligence and sensitivity in the handling of this case. The family has remained fully cooperative throughout the investigation. Although the criminal case has concluded with Toby Willis receiving 40 years for the crimes he committed, the impact on the victims will remain much longer. The family is appreciative and grateful that people have respected their need for privacy during this trying time and asks for continued respect as they seek to move forward.”

The family rose to fame on “America’s Got Talent” in 2014, and went on to shoot two seasons of their reality show, “The Willis Clan,” for TLC, according to People.

Tricia Despres is a senior correspondent for Rare Country, based out of Chicago. Join the conversation on Twitter at @RareCountry. We would love to see y’all there.
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