Reality star Toby Willis was arrested and charged with child rape on Friday, September 9. The 46-year-old, his wife, Brenda, and their 12 children famously starred the TLC reality show The Willis Family after gaining fame as a country music band in 2014.
Us Weekly rounds up five things to know about the Willis Clan.
1. They Were America’s Got Talent Finalists
Toby, Brenda and their children (eight girls and four boys, ages 5 to 24) first hit the spotlight in 2014 when they starred on season 9 of America’s Got Talent. They ultimately reached the quarterfinals before losing to the season 9 champ, magician Mat Franco.
2. Six of Toby’s Siblings Died in 1994
In November 1994, Toby’s parents, Pastor Duane “Scott” and Janet Willis, were traveling to Wisconsin to celebrate a family birthday when their minivan caught fire after striking debris that fell from a truck. The accident killed six of Toby’s siblings, according to the Chicago Tribune.
3. All 12 Kids Have “J” Names
All 12 of Toby and Brenda’s children’s names start with the letter “J” — Jessica, 24, Jeremiah, 23, Jennifer, 21, Jeanette, 20, Jackson, 18, Jedidiah, 17, Jasmine, 15, Juliette, 13, Jamie, 11, Joy-Anna, 9, Jaeger, 6, and Jada 5. All four of their sons also share the middle name “Scott.”
4. They’re Multitalented Musicians
According to the family website, the Willises “do music, dance, art, crafts, writing, as well as [riding] horses, wrestling, homemade cooking, swimming in the creek and snuggling up before our fireplace warming our log cabin.” The children are also “internationally ranked Irish dancers and singers, national swing dance champions and state wrestling champions,” according to USA Today.
5. The Family’s TLC Show Was Canceled
The Willis Family, which followed the family of 14’s musical journey, aired for two seasons on TLC from May 2015 to April 2016. After Toby’s arrest, the network released a statement to Us Weekly stating that they “did not renew” the show after the second season and were “shocked to hear this news.”
A source added, “The family was told in May that the show would be canceled. It didn’t do well in the ratings. The network does extensive background checks, but found no issues with Toby.”
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