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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jerry Zweitzig Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Charges

pastor jerry zweitzig

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Jerry Zweitzig, pastor of Horsham Bible Church — a now-defunct independent congregation –in Horsham, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty several weeks ago to charges of manufacturing and attempted manufacturing of child pornography. In a previous case, Zweitzig was charged with five counts of manufacturing and attempted manufacturing of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. He later pleaded guilty to these charges. He will be sentenced on both cases in September.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

A retired pastor from Hatboro has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing an infant, marking the second time he has admitted abusing a child since October.

Jerry Zweitzig, 71, who had been a pastor at the now-closed Horsham Bible Church until his 2016 retirement, pleaded guilty to charges of manufacturing and attempted manufacturing of child pornography.

….

The charges stem from Zweitzig’s admitted sexual abuse of an infant and his videotaping of that abuse. Investigators found the video, which was created in 2010, while preparing for Zweitzig’s sentencing hearing in a separate child sexual abuse and exploitation case, U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain’s office said in a statement.

In the first case, Zweitzig was charged in May 2019 with five counts of manufacturing and attempted manufacturing of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography.

Prosecutors say he sexually abused a girl, beginning when she was 5 years old and continuing until she was 11 and photographed and videotaped that abuse. He also had an extensive collection of child pornography involving thousands of other children, they said.

In October 2019, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

A 71-year-old former pastor from Montgomery County pleaded guilty Monday to forcing a girl to pose for sexually explicit photos and videos, and amassing more than 10,000 images of child pornography.

Appearing in federal court in Philadelphia, Jerry William Zweitzig of Hatboro withdrew his not-guilty plea and admitted to manufacturing and possessing child pornography. “I plead guilty to all six counts against me,” Zweitzig told U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone.

….

The victim, born in 2003, first reported the abuse to her parents in 2014, shortly before they moved from Pennsylvania. Investigators later found a video, 13 minutes long, in which Zweitzig is seen telling the girl that he would miss her, that she could do anything with him sexually but he would never force her, and that she shouldn’t tell anyone about what they did together.

He told her he had taken explicit photos of her when she was 9 and said he wanted to take more. As Zweitzig removed his clothes and began touching himself in front of her, the child fled the room. She locked herself in the bathroom and called her parents to tell them about the abuse, Gibson said.

Her father went to the police, but for reasons that are not clear, no charges were filed against Zweitzig. After the family moved from Pennsylvania, Zweitzig sent the girl letters, including pages from his journal about her.

In 2018, she gave investigators a more detailed report about the abuse, which she said lasted from 2009 to 2014. Authorities searched Zweitzig’s home and arrested him in December 2018.

Homeland Security Investigations agents found pornographic images and videos from 2013 and 2014 featuring the girl. They also found thousands of images of children downloaded on computers, flash drives, hard drives, and digital cameras.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Martijn Linssen

    “Her father went to the police, but for reasons that are not clear, no charges were filed against Zweitzig”

    At that point she was 11 years old, and I can imagine / assume the police saying “Are you sure you want to report this? Basically it’s the word of an 11 year old against that if a highly respected holy man”.
    Or something like that – anything goes, really

    The judicial system really isn’t fit to deal with crimes like these, and 11 years even is fairly old compared to similar cases. Why do we trust an adult to speak the truth, but not a child?

  2. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Martin— You have articulated one of the reasons why most children who are raped, molested or otherwise exploited by clergy members don’t talk about it until much later in their lives—if they ever talk about it.

    I know; I was one of those children.

    • Avatar
      Matilda

      I’m sorry to know what you had to go through. It’s hard for younger generations to understand how things were some decades ago. When I was 10yo, I was at a family party, I went to the bathroom and came out to find my dad’s best friend lurking there, he tried to grab me and kiss me, I struggled free and stuck closely to my mum’s side for the rest of the afternoon. He lived a long way away, so I knew I’d see him only once a year thankfully. I was confused and scared. I’d just started wearing my first bra, so thought I must be to blame. Had I accused him, I know exactly how my parents would have reacted, I’d probably have got a rare slap on the back of my legs for lying and bringing disgrace on the family. Authority figures were above criticism, which is how abusers got away with it for so long. Had the man touched me intimately, I wouldn’t have had the words to describe those body parts and died of embarrassment rather than try. Im grateful that my small g/children know the correct anatomical names for their genitals – and, heaven forbid – were touched inappropriately know how to yell out and exactly to whom they can complain. And they’ll be believed. Sadly, as we know that was far from the case decades ago.

  3. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Matilda—Thank you.

    Martijn—I apologize for the misspelling of your name. Rest assured: It’s not my fault; it’s Autocorrect’s.

  4. Avatar
    Matilddaa

    To complete my story, the party was an annual summer event when my parents and I travelled 250 miles to spend a week with my grandparents (in the UK). The would-be abuser still lived in their village.. I only saw him on two more yearly visits, as g/parents died and we didn’t go back to that place again.
    However, by coincidence, 50yrs later, husband’s job took us back to that area. I went to a neighbour’s funeral held in the man’s remote village. In the pub afterwards, I said to a group of locals I used to come there as a child and knew the family in the house opposite. There was raucous laughter and comments like ‘Oh that lecher’ and ‘Girls in his school knew not to be alone with him.’ He was a senior teacher who got away with it for decades, often that’s how things were back then. He had 2 girls a little older than me and they both left home at 16 or 18yo, which was very rare then…I always wondered why, and that pub encounter makes me think they too were escaping his abuse. What a monster!

  5. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    In my youth in small-town Ontario, Canada the social norm was simply that kids had no voice and were expected to keep silent, obey without question. We were to trust teachers, preachers, police, you-name-it. This culture is a sure way to produce fodder for abusers because the policy is to harm children by shutting them down and ‘training’ them up in the way they should go… Christianity was and still is very much a part of that system, perhaps not among the most forward-looking believers but most certainly among those that are IFB. People who like to harm their kids (for the child’s own good, you understand) always choose the more fundamentalist inclined churches because even if harming children may be illegal in certain areas, among the church-folk God’s Word rules and you sure would hate to see your child ruined by liberals and perverts who don’t even get married!
    You might not like to think this kind of sickery still flourishes but don’t kid yourself. Look at the man elected as the leader of the free (sic) world.

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