Black Collar Crime (April 2020)

Compiled by Bill Dunn

Arrested / Charged

Larry E. Deutsch, 54, O’Fallon, MO: Possession of child pornography. Deutsch met his alleged teen victim through their Mormon Church ties. (A church statement said Deutsch hasn’t led a congregation since 2014.) After the girl moved with her family to Arizona in 2017, he stayed in touch with her even though her parents got a restraining order against him.

It’s alleged Deutsch coerced the girl into sending him nude images of herself in October 2019 and then sending her nude images of himself. Court documents say he flew to Arizona in February, bought her a 2020 Nissan Rogue SUV and drove with her to Missouri. She told police they had plans to get married in May 2021.

“Police have a compelling reason to believe there may be other victims,” a statement said. “Deutsch was known to have unsupervised contact with children as part of his leadership and service duties at various churches and youth organizations based in St. Charles County and Troy.” Source: KMOV, 2-21-20

Josue Romero, 46, Wendover, UT: 3 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Romero, pastor at New Life Ministries Baptist Church, is charged with inappropriate touching of a girl “about 20 times” from 2016–18 when she was in 5th–7th grades.

The girl, now 16, told police Romero touched her while they were “seated at a large table reading from the Bible with other children around, but no one could see because of the table,” during a sleepover at the church and while they were outside the church playing hide-and-seek. Source: Salt Lake Tribune, 2-21-20

Former Polish Catholic priest Jacek Miedlar, 31, was indicted on charges of hate speech and Holocaust denial. Miedlar’s religious order, the Congregation of the Mission, had banned him from public speaking, leading him to quit the priesthood in late 2016.

According to the prosecutor, Miedlar said this at a nationalist march in November 2017: “Dear ladies and gentlemen, that synagogues can stand here on our Polish soil in Wroclaw, and that [mayor] Dutkiewicz and Jews can get drunk at them with Talmudic hatred, this is only the result of our tolerance.”

Miedlar publicly set fire in 2018 to a portrait of deceased Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, calling him a “communist scab” who “never concealed his Jewish-communist Bolshevik inclinations.” Although Mazowiecki was Catholic with no Jewish roots, his political opponents often accused him of Jewish descent to discourage people from voting for him. Source: Jerusalem Post, 2-20-20

Frederick J. Lutz, 76, Springfield, MO: Forcible sodomy, felony sex abuse and 2 counts of 2nd-degree statutory sodomy while he was pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Parish in Advance in January and February 2000.

Lutz allegedly called the 17-year-old boy, who had been doing yard work, into the rectory where Lutz was drinking alcohol and watching porn. The boy told police Lutz “blocked the door and would not let him out” until he performed and received oral sex and promised to come back the next day with marijuana.

Another boy filed a complaint with the diocese in 2006 that Lutz molested him in 1972 when he was 17 after a night of drinking. He alleged he woke up to Lutz masturbating him and that the next day at Mass, Lutz handed him a bible and wished him “good luck” in college. The diocese ignored the complaint. Source: Riverfront Times, 2-19-20

Christopher “Checkerz” Williams, 47, Baton Rouge, LA: Aggravated assault with a firearm, aggravated criminal damage to property, illegal carrying and discharge of weapons and reckless operation. Williams, lead pastor at Renew Church, was charged with firing a handgun at the driver of an 18-wheeler on I-10 after Williams’ vehicle struck the truck. He then fled the scene. Source: WBRZ, 2-18-20

Guia Cabactulan, 59, Marissa Duenas, 41, and Amanda Estopare, 48, Los Angeles leaders of the Philippines-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church, have been charged as part of an alleged scheme to trick followers into becoming fundraisers and arrange sham marriages to keep them in the U.S.

Former followers told the FBI they worked long hours soliciting donations for the church and were beaten and psychologically abused if they didn’t make daily quotas. Some described having to live in cars at truck stops.

Between 2014–19, $20 million was sent to the Philippines. Investigators documented 82 sham marriages over a 20-year period. Source: AP, 2-14-20

Stricjavvar F. Strickland, 37, Kalamazoo, MI: Misdemeanor assault and battery. Strickland, senior pastor at Second Baptist Church, is charged with striking a deacon at the church Dec. 15. Strickland claimed it was self-defense. Source: mlive.com, 2-12-20

Paul E. Lubienecki, 62, Hamburg, NY: 2 counts of cyberstalking. Lubienecki, an adjunct professor at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, is accused of making voicemail threats starting last August to TV news reporter Charlie Specht for his stories on abuse scandals in the Diocese of Buffalo and at the seminary.

“You’re still a bad Catholic and a horrible reporter,” a message on Specht’s phone said. “I hope to God I don’t see you walking around.”

Hours after the diocese announced on Feb. 4 the closure of the seminary, Specht gave a live report and received a call: “You must be so happy the seminary’s closing. You’re a bad person. I know where you live … I’m gonna find you. I’m gonna kill you.”

Lubienecki also allegedly left menacing messages for former diocesan employee Siobhan O’Connor and Fr. Ryszard Biernat. Source: WKBW, 2-12-20

Todd T. Hogue, 59, Curwensville, PA: 2 counts of 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct. Hogue, pastor at Community Baptist Church since 2003, allegedly assaulted a 17-year-old girl at Lake Region Christian School in Baxter, MN, in 1987–88 when he was 27 and was a youth pastor at First Baptist Church and girls basketball coach.

Allegations include assault on several occasions before and after the girl’s 18th birthday, including sexual intercourse. The investigation revealed other instances of alleged behavior by Hogue, including snapping students’ bra straps and other inappropriate touching. Source: Brainerd Dispatch, 2-11-20

Jefferson Kwamina-Crystal, 65, Spartanburg, SC: 1st-degree sexual misconduct with an inmate. Kwamina-Crystal, a chaplain at Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood, allegedly coerced an inmate to perform oral sex on him in his office between August and December 2019. Source: WSPA, 2-11-20

Taisha D. Smith-DeJoseph, 43, Willingboro, NJ: 13 counts of computer criminal activity, tax fraud, theft by deception and theft. It’s alleged she stole $561,777 from 2015–19 while overseeing finances at St. Paul’s Baptist Church, filed a fraudulent income tax return in 2017 and did not file at all in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. Source: Philly Inquirer, 2-11-20

Ryan S. Walsh, 27, Gulf Breeze, FL: Transmitting obscene material to a minor, lewd and lascivious behavior involving a minor and use of a computer to solicit/seduce a child. Walsh, youth director at United Methodist Church, is accused of inappropriate touching, messaging and sending photos to a 13-year-old girl. Source: WALA, 2-10-20

Antonio Carlisle, 45, Jacksonville, FL: Sexual battery and sexual misconduct. Carlisle, senior pastor at Greater Truevine Missionary Baptist Church in Lake City and education supervisor at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, allegedly penetrated the victim anally with his penis without consent on Aug. 6. Source: Miami Herald, 2-7-20

David R. Darby, 41, Paris, TX: Aggravated sexual assault of a child. Darby, youth pastor at Freedom Church, is accused of an assault on Jan. 1, 2013. Source: KXII, 2-7-20

Jason Thomas, 40, Coppell, TX: Aggravated sexual assault of a child. Thomas, associate minister of worship at Valley Ranch Baptist Church, allegedly had sexual contact with a girl under 14 years old. Source: CBS Dallas, 2-7-20

Logan Wesley III, 56, Texarkana, AR: 18 felony counts related to alleged sexual abuse of 3 underage girls. Wesley, pastor of Trinity Temple Church of God in Christ, allegedly started molesting one of the girls when she was 12 and continued for several years on a regular basis. Source: Texarkana Gazette, 2-6-20

Elmer R. Perez, 45, New Bedford, MA: Witness intimidation, rape, aggravated rape and 2 counts of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older. Perez, pastor of Iglesia de Jesucristo, allegedly met the married parishioner at a market last October and convinced her to go to the storefront church, where the assaults took place. Prosecutor Zac Mercer said 5 women have come forward with assault allegations. One is pregnant. Source: Standard-Times, 2-3-20

David Desmond, Sioux Falls, SD: Grand theft embezzlement. Desmond resigned last July as pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church after being confronted about financial irregularities and frequent absences. An audit revealed over $95,000 worth of questionable disbursements over a 5-year period. Desmond’s whereabouts are unknown. Source: KELO, 2-3-20

Rolando Fuentes, 53, Anaheim, CA: Lewd acts with a minor, rape, sexual battery, domestic battery and child annoyance. Fuentes, pastor at Centro Familia Cristiano Peniel, has 3 alleged victims, including 2 juveniles. The church, founded by Fuentes and his wife in 2008, mainly serves Guatemalan immigrants. Source: KABC, 1-31-20

Frederick G. Smith, 50, Memphis, TN: Identity theft and 2 counts of theft of property over $10,000. It’s alleged that Smith, pastor of New Life Holiness Church, went in March 2015 to the home of church member Clevie Williams and asked her to be on a church board before obtaining personal information such as her Social Security and driver’s license numbers.

Williams said she soon began receiving credit card statements in her name showing charges of between $10,000 and $60,000. Carolyn Bussell, Williams’s daughter-in-law, said the money was used for all kinds of things. “They got dental work done to their teeth … hair extensions, $6,500 worth of shoes.”

Smith’s wife was initially charged with misdemeanors but she was not indicted due to insufficient evidence. Source: Fox Memphis, 1-31-20

Richard T. Brown, 78, Dittmer, MO: Aggravated sexual assault of a child. Brown, a Catholic priest living at a church treatment center for sex addicts, is charged with molesting a girl between the ages of 6 and 14 in 1989–96 in Texas.

Brown told a detective the girl was “fascinated” by him, “sat in my lap” and “was aggressively all over me,” an arrest warrant said.

Brown was forced out as pastor of Our Lady of the Lake in 1994 in Rockwall, TX, a year after another alleged victim told church leaders he abused her in 1981. He underwent therapy and continued to serve in adult-only ministries.

Brown allegedly admitted to Dallas detective David Clark in 2019 that he sexually abused as many as 50 children during his time at the Dallas diocese. “It should be noted,” Clark wrote in the affidavit, “Brown has not been investigated or prosecuted for any of his acts of sexual abuse against children.” Source: Dallas Morning News, 1-30-20

Pleaded / Convicted

Robert D. Adkins, 75, Ona, W.VA: Pleaded guilty to mail fraud. In a plea bargain, Adkins, volunteer treasurer at Antioch Baptist Church, admitted writing over $487,000 worth of checks to personal creditors without the knowledge of church leaders from 2012–18. The fraud charge stems from mailing a church check in December 2018 to a Texas creditor to pay his monthly payment on a 2016 Ford Escape. Source: WV MetroNews, 2-19-20

Brian D. Batke, 73, Surrey, BC: Pleaded guilty to sexual assault. Batke was associated with Cloverdale Christian Fellowship Church at the time of the 2007 assault of a minor. He was a church elder until 2005 and then served as a church director until 2007.

Samuel Emerson, a pastor at the church, was found guilty of sexual assault in November. Source: CBC, 2-18-20

Andrea Knecht (née Lightfoot), 34, Omaha, NE: Pleaded no contest to 1st-degree sexual assault. Knecht, a part-time coach at Marian Catholic High School in 2013, was charged with assaults on a freshman basketball player when Knecht was 27 and the girl was 14 and 15.

Knecht later married and had a child. “Phone records were gathered which showed hundreds of calls between the victim and the defendant during that time period,” prosecutor Molly Keane told the court.

The girl’s parents discovered the phone calls and the school told Knecht to stop contacting her. “The defendant then, according to reports, bought the victim a burner phone to continue their contact,” Keane said. She was eventually fired but the school never alerted police. The girl didn’t file a complaint to police until 2019.

According to its website, “Marian teaches the beliefs of the Roman Catholic faith in a caring and loving community atmosphere” to girls preparing for college. Source: World-Herald, 2-1-20

Sentenced

Kevin Lonergan, 31, Pottsville, PA: 1 to 2 years in prison and sex offender registration for 15 years after pleading guilty to indecent assault. Lonergan, pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Allentown, admitted rubbing his body against the 17-year-old victim’s body in 2018 and sending her 20 sexually explicit photos and a video.

Lonergan had been transferred in 2016 from another parish after a 15-year-old girl alleged he assaulted her. He was temporarily removed from ministry but later reinstated before his transfer.

“We are still transferring priests that molest children?” asked Judge Maria Dantos at sentencing. “If he had been sanctioned and fired, this victim would not be a victim.”

Lonergan apologized. “I am guilty of violating your trust and stealing your dignity as a person,” he told the girl. “My actions were disgusting and selfish.”

Dantos berated the priest’s many supporters who came to court. “There is no churchgoing person who should be supporting your actions. Period.” Source: Morning Call, 2-24-20

Orlando Martinez-Chavez, 48, Jersey City, NJ: 8 years in prison. Martinez-Chavez, a father of 3 and pastor at Iglesia Pentecostal Lirio de los Valles, was found guilty at trial of sexual assaults on a 10-year-old girl from the church. He later pleaded guilty to assaults on 2 other underage victims. Source: Daily Voice, 2-22-20

Olivet University, a San Francisco-based evangelical college, and 4 of its top executives with ties to media companies pleaded guilty in New York to falsifying business records and money laundering and were fined $1.25 million. The entities and leaders also have ties to controversial Korean-American pastor David Jang, whose expansive global network founded Olivet, the Christian Post, Christian Today and the International Business Times.

The media companies and Olivet inflated their financial standing to secure $35 million in loans to purchase high-end computer servers. They instead obtained cheaper servers (or none at all) and used the loans for their own operations as well as transferring funds to each other, according to the Manhattan DA’s office.

Olivet offers 21 degree programs to a student body of a few hundred mostly international students on visas from Korea and China. It’s accredited through the Association for Biblical Higher Education. Source: Christianity Today, 2-20-20

Robert D. Barkman, 66, Atlanta, TX: 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography and 2 counts of promotion of child pornography. An investigation started in June 2019 when images were discovered on his computer at an unidentified church where he served as youth leader and secretary. He’s also a retired middle school teacher.

“According to investigators, it appeared that Barkman has been creating and holding child pornography since the early 2000s,” said a prosecution press release. Source: Texarkana Gazette, 2-10-20

Hugh Lang, 89, a retired Diocese of Pittsburgh Catholic priest, was sentenced to 9 to 24 months in jail on sexual assault convictions involving a boy who was 11 at the time and is now 30.

He accused Lang of taking him to an isolated basement room in Munhall, then forcing him to undress and masturbate him as punishment for making a joke to other altar boys about Lang drinking the communion wine. Source: Post-Gazette, 2-6-20

Thomas W. Steele, 63, Concord, NC: 73 to 100 months in prison and $123,367 restitution for embezzlement over $100,000 and 4 counts of exploitation of an elder adult. Steele, pastor of New Life Baptist Church, was convicted of stealing from an 85-year-old widow after the death of her husband in 2015. She had given Steele power of attorney. Source: WBTV, 2-3-20

Lincoln Warrington, 49, Teaneck, NJ: A year and a day in prison for his part as treasurer in a scheme to steal more than $5.3 million from the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ from 2007–15. Co-conspirator and pastor Jermaine Grant, 44, was sentenced to 18 months. Both pleaded guilty.

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Harlem-based church a black nationalist hate group. Grant has claimed that a black Jesus will return to Earth to kill and enslave whites. Source: Daily Voice, 1-30-20

Michael Sperou, 69, Portland, OR: 160 months in prison and $70,000 in victim damages after being convicted of sexually assaulting a child under age 12 on separate occasions between 1991–96. Sperou, senior pastor of N. Clackamas Bible Community Church, was found guilty of abusing girls who lived within the community, which some have called a cult. At the time it was called the Southeast Bible Church. Source: KATU, 1-31-20

Brian Stanley, 57, Coloma, MI: 60 days in jail, 5 years’ probation and 15 years’ sex offender registration after pleading guilty to attempted unlawful imprisonment of a 17-year-old boy in 2013 when he was pastor at St. Margaret’s Catholic Church.

Stanley immobilized the boy in plastic bubble wrap and covered his mouth and eyes with masking tape for over an hour before letting him go. Three other alleged victims have come forward, said prosecutor Alison Furtaw, including a boy who was 13, but those cases are past the statute of limitations.

“Although [Stanley] reports there was no sexual reason for doing this to the victims, they thought he was masturbating, but it was hard for them to tell because their eyes were taped shut,” Furtaw told the court. Source: mlive.com, 1-30-20

Civil Lawsuits Filed

St. Michael’s Catholic Church and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Rochester, NY, are being sued for alleged 1969 sexual assaults of a Florida plaintiff. The man alleges he was molested by Fr. Benedict Ehman and another priest when he was 8 years old, sometimes singly and sometimes by both priests at the same time. Source: WROC, 2-19-20

The Catholic Archdiocese of Denver and Denver priest Andrew Kemberling are defendants in a suit alleging St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Parish and School at Kemberling’s direction used $2.2 million in restricted funds to cover things the money was not appropriated for over a 5-year period.

The total includes $250,000 from a fund to help a teacher at the school pay for the education of her 4 children after their father died of cancer. Source: CBS Denver, 2-18-20

The First Baptist Church of Hammond, IN, and David Hyles are being sued by Joy Rider, who alleges Hyles raped her repeatedly as a teen in the late 1970s when he was a youth pastor.

She alleges officials of the church and Hyles-Anderson College were complicit. David Hyles is the son of the church’s charismatic leader, the late Jack Hyles.

The suit asserts that after Rider’s father confronted church officials, he was given a lucrative job at Hyles-Anderson “in exchange for his silence and agreement not to take the allegations to law enforcement” and that David Hyles was moved to a Texas church. Source: nwitimes, 2-18-20

The Catholic Diocese of Paterson, NJ, is being sued over alleged abuse at the now-closed Don Bosco Technical High School in Paterson by a former student, who asserts he was molested by Sean Rooney, a priest and chemistry teacher, over 100 times in the early 1970s. Rooney’s last known address was in Tempe, AZ.

The website bishop-accountability.org noted Rooney was also accused in a 2013 suit of abuse of a 14-year-old seminary student at a retreat house in Massachusetts and at a seminary in New York. Source: nj.com 2-17-20

The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, former Archbishop Roger Mahony and former priest Michael Baker are being sued by a 32-year-old man who alleges Baker was returned to parish duties even after admitting to molesting him and other children.

Baker has been accused of molesting at least 23 men as young boys during his decades as a priest. He was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to 10 years. Source: KTLA, 2-12-20

Jerome Yeiser, a deacon at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, NY, is being sued for allegedly absconding with over $200,000 from at least 5 church families during the last 6 years. He allegedly used the money to pay for a personal trip, his daughter’s law school tuition and an IRS tax lien.

Yeiser and his wife Avis have faced many past charges of financial malfeasance, including $170,000 in civil judgments, $90,000 in unpaid tax liens, a home foreclosure, 3 bankruptcy filings and prosecution on more than a dozen federal criminal charges. Source: amny.com, 2-12-20

At least 20 former Jehovah’s Witnesses members in the UK are suing the church over historical sexual abuse. The Witnesses have a policy of not punishing child sex abuse unless another person besides the accuser has witnessed it or an abuser confesses.

Former elder John Viney, who alleges he was abused between the ages 9 and 13 by a distant family member who was an active Witness, said the church is “inadvertently” protecting abusers. “The way that Jehovah’s Witnesses handle matters within the congregation, it’s a closed shop,” Viney said. Source: BBC, 2-4-20

Kevin Vann, bishop of the (Latin Rite) Catholic Diocese of Orange and Edward Poettgen are being sued by a 28-year-old man who alleges Poettgen fondled and penetrated him twice at St. Polycarp School in Stanton, CA, when he was 6.

The plaintiff said that after he reported the alleged abuse in January 2019, Vann treated him like “an enemy of the church” instead of offering compassion. Poettgen is now assigned to St. Boniface Parish in Anaheim.

“They served subpoenas on my mother, my girlfriend and my employers, hoping to intimidate me but I will not be intimidated,” the plaintiff said. “I find strength in knowing that my actions will protect other children.” Source: KABC, 2-4-20

The Diocese of Buffalo, NY, and St. Timothy’s Catholic Church are defendants in a suit filed by a plaintiff who alleged oral and anal rape by St. Timothy’s pastor John L. Ducette starting in 1986 when he was 13. Ducette, who was also police chaplain for the town of Tonawanda, died in 2016 at age 79.

“Plaintiff estimates that Monsignor Ducette sexually assaulted and abused him over one hundred (100) times over the course of an eighteen (18) month period,” the suit alleges. “Monsignor Ducette wore his religious garb while sexually assaulting and abusing Plaintiff.” Source: Buffalo News, 2-1-20

Richard T. Brown, a recently arrested former Texas Catholic priest (see Arrested/Charged above), repeatedly raped an 8-year-old girl in the early 1980s after Sunday school at Holy Family of Nazareth Parish in Irving, according to a suit filed against the Diocese of Dallas.

The suit was filed on behalf of the alleged victim by her aunt. When they were alone, Brown allegedly told the girl “God said it was OK.” Now 45, “Jane Doe” struggles with drug addiction and living an independent life and doesn’t have a driver’s license, her aunt said. Source: WFAA, 1-30-20

Civil Lawsuits Settled

Ohio televangelist Ernest Angley and his Grace Cathedral megachurch in Cuyahoga Falls reached a confidential settlement in a suit filed by Brock Miller of Myrtle Beach, SC. Miller, a former church employee, alleged Angley abused and harassed him for a decade starting in 2004, forced him to get a vasectomy, inspected his genitals and asked him sexual questions.

Had the case gone to trial, attorneys had agreed the 98-year-old Angley wouldn’t be required to testify due to age-related maladies. Source: AP, 2-17-20

The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Lawrence Lovell and the Claretian Missionaries agreed to settle for $1.9 million a suit filed by Richard Barrios, 47, who alleged Lovell molested him at San Gabriel Mission Parish from 1982–84 when he was 9 to 11 years old.

Lovell was convicted in 1986 in Los Angeles of abusing a 14-year-old boy and placed on 3 years’ probation. He later pleaded guilty after being transferred to Arizona to child molestation and sexual conduct with a minor and received a 14-year sentence. He’s scheduled to be released March 7, 2021. Source: L.A. Times, 1-30-20

Finances

The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, NY, facing 260 lawsuits involving clergy sexual abuse, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Filings estimate between $50 million and $100 million in liability. The diocese already paid $17.5 million to 106 victims in 2018. Source: WKBW, 2-28-20

The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, PA, filed for bankruptcy, 6 months after disclosing it paid over $12 million to over 100 people sexually abused as children by its clerics. Twenty-three U.S. dioceses and religious orders, including one in Guam, have filed for bankruptcy.

The diocese told the court it has more than 200 creditors and estimated liabilities between $50 million and $100 million, with assets of less than $10 million. The diocese estimates it faces about 200 additional child sexual abuse claims. Source: AP, 2-19-20

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond, VA, announced creation of a compensation fund for victims after identifying nearly 50 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors.

Survivors of clergy sex abuse had until April 3 to submit a claim. The program will be administered by BrownGreer, a Richmond-based settlement firm. Source: WWBT, 2-17-20

Disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick secretly gave nearly $1 million to a controversial group of Catholic missionaries and supported leniency for its founder Carlos Buela after the Vatican sanctioned Buela in 2010 for sexual wrongdoing with minors. From 2004–17, McCarrick sent the Institute of the Incarnate Word in Argentina dozens of checks from a charitable account he controlled at the Archdiocese of Washington, according to church ledgers.

Buela was ultimately ordered to live in a monastery in Spain in 2016. McCarrick, defrocked in 2019 for sexual abuse, recently moved from a Kansas friary to an undisclosed location. Source: Washington Post, 2-17-20

Legal Developments

Thomas Ericksen, 72, a Catholic priest sentenced in 2019 to 30 years for sexual assaults on at least 11 boys, could be released on parole less than a year after being sentenced. According to a letter from the state Department of Corrections to victims, the Wisconsin Parole Commission will consider Ericksen’s request for parole in April.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said victim Steve Weix. “A lot of people just spent 10 years trying to get him convicted, and it finally happened in September. Now they’re already looking at paroling him in April?”

The sentence was described in the letter as “indeterminate,” meaning the judge has no control over how long Ericksen will actually serve. Because Ericksen committed the crimes before the state adopted “truth in sentencing” in 1999, his prison term is up to the Parole Commission.

Generally, inmates with an indeterminate sentence must serve at 25% of it, which is 7½ years for Ericksen. Source: Wausau Daily Herald, 2-20-20

John B. Feit, 87, died in a Texas prison only 2 years into his life sentence for the 1960 murder of 25-year-old Irene Garza, a school teacher and former Miss South Texas. Feit was living in Arizona when he was finally arrested in 2016. He left the Catholic priesthood in the early 1970s, married and had 3 children.

Trial testimony showed Garza was killed on Easter weekend after Feit heard her confession at Sacred Heart Parish in McAllen when he was 27. An autopsy revealed she had been raped while unconscious and was asphyxiated.

Prosecutor Michael Garza alleged Feit was sexually excited by the sound of women walking in high heels and by the sight of them kneeling for prayer. Evidence was also presented that the Catholic Church conspired with law enforcement to prevent a scandal and to shield Feit from being charged. The investigation died and the church transferred him. Source: McAllen Monitor, 2-13-20

The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office is investigating whether Jehovah’s Witnesses repeatedly failed to report child sexual abuse allegations. Mark O’Donnell, a former Witness, was interviewed last year at his home in Baltimore and testified before a statewide grand jury in Harrisburg, PA.

The Witnesses branch in Wallkill, NY, in a statement to USA Today, said it “cares deeply about children” and always tries to follow the law.

In 2018, a Montana jury awarded $35 million to Alexis Nunez, who said she was sexually abused for years by a member of the Thompson Falls congregation. Two others told elders in 2004 they were abused by the same man, but the elders never reported it to authorities.

The church appealed the verdict and the Montana Supreme Court ruled in its favor, finding that the lower court erred when it said Witnesses had a duty to report. Source: USA Today, 2-8-20

Peter Green, 56, a leader of a New Mexico paramilitary religious sect with anti-Semitic leanings who is facing multiple counts of child sex abuse charges, was released on house arrest despite protests from law enforcement. Green is a lieutenant colonel in the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps near Grants.

His mother-in-law, sect leader Deborah Green, 71, was sentenced in 2018 to 72 years in prison for kidnapping, criminal sexual penetration of a minor and child abuse. Eleven children were rescued from the compound.

Cibola County Undersheriff Michael Munk said former members described leaders treating followers like slaves and physically beating children. Two other leaders are serving prison sentences. Source: AP, 2-4-20

Allegations

Abuse allegations by 2 women against Wesley Feltner, former lead pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Burnsville, MN, were deemed credible after a church investigation. Feltner behaved in a shameful way not “free from sinful habits” and deserved “rebuke or censure” in the eyes of church elders, according to a recent statement from the church to congregants.

JoAnna Hendrickson and Megan Frey, now in their mid-30s, said Feltner, now 41, dated each of them at the same time in 2002 when he was a youth pastor and they were 18.

Their accusations came to light last fall after Feltner applied for a position at a church in Clarksville, TN. Hendrickson and Frey created a website about their experiences and the church’s failure to take action. “We love Christ, we love the church, and the whole reason this is coming about is because the church needs to be saved from people like this,” Frey said.

The investigation also determined Feltner intentionally misused his church credit card, which officials said will be offset by reducing the amount they agreed to pay him when he resigned. Source: Star Tribune, 2-5-20

Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter, son of the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Ger Hasidic sect in Israel, is accused of sexual assaults by male yeshiva students in Jerusalem dating back 2 decades. His father, Yaakov Aryeh Alter, 80, learned years later about the accusations and removed him from the yeshiva, but authorities weren’t contacted and complainants have received no financial or emotional support.

It’s also alleged the Hasidic community paid about $86,000 to hush up the scandal, after which the younger Alter was moved to another Hasidic institution and the yeshiva was closed. Source: Haaretz, 12-22-19

Removed / Resigned

The Southern Baptist Convention expelled Ranchland Heights Baptist Church in Midland, TX, for knowingly hiring registered sex offender Phillip Rutledge as pastor in 2016. It’s the first church to be disfellowshipped by the denomination amid a heightened push to combat sexual abuse.

Rutledge was convicted of sexually assaulting two preteen girls in 2003. A deacon at the church told the local CBS affiliate in 2016 that “the vast majority” of members knew about Rutledge’s sex offender status. Source: New York Times, 2-19-20

Other

Ulysses Woodard, 44, co-pastor with his wife of True Word of Deliverance Church of God in Prichard, AL, killed himself with a handgun after shooting Alisha Woodard in the chest in the parking lot of Cornerstone Church in Mobile, where she had just finished preaching. They were recently estranged.

As police arrived, Woodard fled the scene in his vehicle but soon returned. As officers approached, he shot himself. His wife’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening. Source: Christian Post, 2-28-20

Richard Logan, 53, Sugar Land, TX, a former pastor and founder of the faith-based nonprofit Attack Poverty, fatally shot himself after killing his wife and son in the family home, then tried to strangle his daughter. Logan served as missions pastor at River Pointe Church for several years. Diana Logan, 48, was a small-group leader. Their son Aaron was 11.

Logan then drove to San Marcos, where his daughter Ambrielle is a senior at Texas State University and tried to strangle her before taking his own life, police said. Source: Christian Post, 2-14-20

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