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Tag: Child Molestation

Black Collar Crime: Independent Baptist Youth Pastor Scott Christner Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Sex Crimes

scott christner

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.

Scott Christner, a youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Goshen, Indiana, pleaded guilty to child molestation and was sentenced today to twenty years in prison. First Baptist is an Independent Baptist congregation pastored by Gregg Lanzen.

The Goshen News reports:

A former youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Goshen has been sentenced following his conviction for child molestation.

On Wednesday, Scott Christner, 46, was sentenced in Elkhart County Superior Court 3 to 41 years at the Indiana Department of Corrections with 20 of those years being served in prison and the remaining 21 on probation, according to court records. 

He initially was charged in December 2019 with nine felony counts of child molesting and two felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor in one case and another count of child molesting in the other case. He pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement Nov. 4 to child molesting, a Level 4 felony.

Five victims had accused Christner of touching them inappropriately when they were boys while they participated in The Olympians, a youth group they said Christner helped lead at First Baptist Church in Goshen. The touching occurred from about May 2012 through January 2017, as well July of 2019, according to court documents.

Christner was first arrested in November of 2019 as Goshen police investigated allegations made by a boy under 14 years old.

Shortly after the arrest was reported, four more victims, now 19 and 20 years old, came forward. They told investigators they had also been inappropriately touched by Christner when they were approximately 10 to 12 years old, the documents showed. Many of the incidents occurred at Christner’s house.

Christner was arrested and jailed a second time after the new accusations surfaced. He bonded out of jail shortly after both arrests.

WSBT-22 adds:

Scott Christner will spend 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to 5 counts of child molestation. If he had been found guilty of all counts, he would’ve faced 114 years in prison. Five anonymous survivors have come forward since the allegations came to light in 2019.

At the sentencing hearing, Christner read the letter he wrote to the survivors in March 2020. He was stoic at the defense table, but his voice started to break when he spoke about the times he and the survivors had when he was a First Baptist Church youth lead.

“I had a great opportunity to lead and encourage growth. However, I have sinned against you, your families and God,” Christner said.

Christner said he regrets the pain he’s inflicted on the survivors and their families. Michiana Biblical Counseling Center had been working with Christner since he was charged. The counseling center’s director, David Hills, took the stand and said he believes Christner has genuine remorse and wants more counseling help.

“He’s not doing this on his own and therefore will not put himself in a situation to be a repeat offender,” Hills said.

However, the prosecution said Christner took advantage of his authority and the connections he had with the survivors and their families.

One of the survivors — and family members of some of the others — were in court for the hearing. The parents of one of the survivors detailed how their once outgoing son had significant health problems after the sexual abuse and is still recovering from the trauma. In a letter to the court, survivor said:

“For years I wanted to say something to family and friends. I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me.”

The father of one of the survivors took the stand and said he had been lifelong friends with Christner. He said he would take his son and Christner to sports events. He would also leave his son at Christner’s house if he had to go out of town.

“Until things came to light, I was still doing things with my son with Scott this is ingrained, it’s part of who [my son] is. It should’ve never happened,” the survivor’s father said.

When Christner completes his 20-year sentence, he will be on probation and will need to register as a sex offender, pay a $10,000 fine and restitution, and can’t leave Elkhart County without permission.

It is fortunate that the judge in this case didn’t buy the nonsense (which would be hilarious if it wasn’t for the nature of Christner’s heinous crimes) spouted by David Hills, the director of the Michiana Biblical Counseling Center in Osceola, Indiana. Michiana’s website states:

We approach counseling with the strong belief that there is no better counseling tool available than God’s Word! Nothing else even comes close! We believe that the one who made us, loves us, and wants what is best for us has given us His Word to clearly teach us how to live in this world in a way that REALLY WORKS!!! Based on this strong belief, the foundation of our counsel is the Word of God, allowing us to counsel with great joy and confidence.

If the “Word of God” really “works,” why didn’t it keep Christner from sexually molesting numerous children? Further, neither Hills nor his fellow counselor, Deanna Doctor, are qualified to provide counseling for Christner. Michiana is little more than a Fundamentalist church hiding behind the facade of a counseling center. Using the Kevin Bacon Rule, I found that virtually everyone connected to Michiana has degrees from Fundamentalist institutions. The judge was wise to reject Hills’ baseless assertion that Christner is “cured,” and is unlikely to offend again. Well, I guess Hills is right in one regard. Christner won’t have an opportunity to re-offend for twenty years.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jeffrey Zizz Charged With Sex Crimes Against His Children

arrested

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.

Jeffrey Zizz, former pastor of Calvary Chapel in North Thurston, Washington, stands accused of first-degree incest, first-degree rape of a child, first-degree child molestation, second-degree rape of a child, second-degree child molestation, third degree-rape of a child, two counts of third-degree child molestation and second-degree attempted rape. Zizz’s alleged victims are his children.

The Olympian reports:

Jeffrey Kian Zizz, a military veteran, turned himself in to Lacey Police on Oct. 21 and vaguely confessed to “sexual misconduct” in his home, according to court documents. He pleaded not guilty to nine specific crimes during his arraignment on Tuesday, Nov. 2. The nine counts include: first-degree incest, first-degree rape of a child, first-degree child molestation, second-degree rape of a child, second-degree child molestation, third degree-rape of a child, two counts of third-degree child molestation and second-degree attempted rape.

On Oct. 22, Thurston County Superior Court Judge John Skinner found probable cause for six of the nine crimes Zizz’s was ultimately charged with and set bail at $250,000. A pretrial services screening of Zizz did not find any prior criminal convictions. Zizz became pastor at Calvary Chapel North Thurston in June 2019, according to a church Facebook post. The church holds services at Northwest Christian Academy in Lacey.

Law enforcement were told church pastors and elders “were aware of the allegations and as a result he is no longer a pastor,” according to court documents. In a statement, current Pastor Sam Christensen at Calvary Chapel North Thurston acknowledged Zizz’s was an employee and confirmed he is no longer affiliated with the church. “We were deeply grieved upon hearing of this news and we seek and pray for healing for the family,” Christensen said. “We are available to law authorities if they have questions, but since the issues involved do not appear to involve the church, and since there is an ongoing investigation, we have no further comment to make.” The alleged crimes described in court documents only involve his children and make no mention of other potential victims. A probable cause statement from the perspective of law enforcement described the events leading up to Zizz’s arrest.

Zizz’s attorney contacted a Lacey police officer on Oct. 12. During the meeting, the attorney told the officer that Zizz wished to turn himself in for numerous sexual assaults he committed “over the years” involving his children. The attorney also informed the officer that Zizz admitted to attempting to sexually assault one of his children while intoxicated a week prior, according to the statement. The incident reportedly prompted Zizz to confess to his attorney. In the days after the meeting, the statement says law enforcement interviewed Zizz’s wife and children about the alleged assaults. The children confirmed graphic details during those interviews, per the statement. On Oct. 21, the statement says Zizz turned himself in at the Lacey Police Department and explained there was “sexual misconduct” in his home involving his children. He reportedly said he wanted his children to tell the truth and believed they would, per the statement.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Reformed Baptist Pastor Tom Chantry Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison

pastor tom chantry

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.

In May 2019, Tom Chantry, the former pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona, was convicted on four charges of child molestation.  The CV Bugle reported:

The skies turned dark, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed and hail rattled the Yavapai County Superior Court Wednesday while jurors decided the fate of former Prescott Baptist minister Thomas Chantry.

Two hours later, 12 members of that jury, one by one in open court, confirmed their guilty verdict in each of the four charges of child molestation that happened more than two decades ago. It took seven hours over two days for the jury to reach its verdict.

“If you tell, God is going to punish you. If you tell, you’re not going to go to heaven,” Chantry told his 11-year-old victim, Deputy County Attorney Susan Eazer explained to jurors in her closing arguments.

Chantry’s bond was revoked Wednesday. During the aggravated circumstances stage of the trial, immediately after the verdict, the jury determined that Chantry caused emotional harm to the victim, according to Eazer.

The victim felt shame, confused, felt it was his fault, the prosecutor said. The victim felt fearful the defendant was going to do this to other children, Eazer argued. She said the victim was angry at his parents for not protecting him from the minister.

Chantry’s attorney, Ryan Stevens, argued against the aggravated circumstances verdict because the state did not present any psychological evidence that Chantry caused emotional harm to the victim.

But the jury agreed with Eazer not to continue bail, and after the hearing the minister walked out the side door of the courtroom with officers behind.

The minister has been accused of multiple instances of abuse and molestation involving the children in his former congregation.

During a trial last summer, a Yavapai County Superior Court jury was deadlocked on the four molestation charges by just one juror and this is a retrial of that case, Eazer said.

During the trial last summer, Chantry was tried on a total of five felony charges of child molestation and three aggravated assault charges.

Jurors determined he was guilty on two of the aggravated assault charges and not guilty on one aggravated assault charge and one molestation charge.

Chantry is also facing nine other charges involving child abuse and molestation in another case.

In June 1995, Chantry became the new pastor at Miller Valley Baptist Church. Accusers and their families first reported incidents of abuse to the church but no reports were made to the police until 2015.

Eazar ended the two-week trial Wednesday, arguing in her closing arguments that the jurors should believe the witnesses’ testimony, including the testimony of the single victim in this case, who is now a grown man with children.

However, Stevens argued in his closing statement that the witnesses for the victim brought “personal agendas, family agendas, biases and prejudices.” He said the witnesses in this trial contradicted themselves when compared to their testimony in previous cases and cited several examples.

Stevens argued that the four molestations charges that Chantry is facing are not about allegations of “spanking.”

“Excessive spanking: That’s for another courtroom, on another day.” This case is about the “touching” of the victim in certain body areas, he said.

The defense attorney also questioned the quality of the witnesses’ memories of alleged incidents from more than 20 years ago.

The defense attorney also said there was no medical or scientific evidence to corroborate the victim’s testimony. There was no thorough police investigation, he added.

“They (the witnesses) have knowledge of spankings,” Stevens told the jury.

“And you look at the actual evidence that is paper-thin, this, ladies and gentlemen, is not what ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ looks like, to convict a person of child molesting.”

In her rebuttal to Stevens’ closing arguments, Eazer took exception at Stevens’ comment that spankings “have nothing to do with this case.”

What the defense never explained is why the minister would be spanking these children in this manner, Eazer argued. She asked why the defendant would deny the spankings, other than say they were light taps, she asked.

“Wouldn’t it be a little too creepy for the defendant to have pulled down the pants of children in his congregation, spanked them excessively, with objects repeatedly, leave marks, for things like spelling errors grammatical errors,” Eazer pointed out, “Why would each of those children describe those spankings,” she asked the jury.

“The spankings again are the gateway into the molestation,” Eazer said.

“You can’t get to what he did” to the victim without talking about the spanking, she said,

Eazer pointed out that the minister even got permission from the victim’s family to discipline children by spanking them, using his church influence, to let the victims know he was in “control.”

“Why did he do it? Motive.” Eazer said. “It was actually very brilliant in a sadistic and pedophilia perhaps way.”

Chantry showed the victim who was in control, he got joy from inflicting pain, watching the victim’s bottom turn red and this gave the minister an excuse to do what his motive and his intent was: “To touch this little boy,” the prosecutor said.

Eazer stressed that the witness did not come up with their stories about the minister together and that they should be believed even two decades later. She argued there is no reason to make up these stories just because they are angry at the minister. The testimony is not the kind of attention these witnesses and victims seek, she added.

Chantry, the son of Reformed Baptist luminary Walter Chantry, was sentenced last week to 24 years in prison.

Here’s several pages from the State’s Sentencing Memorandum:

chantry sentencing document

chantry sentencing document 1

chantry sentencing document 2

For detailed coverage of Chantry’s trial and conviction, please check out the Thou Art the Man blog.

Black Collar Crime: Reformed Baptist Pastor Tom Chantry Convicted of Child Molestation

pastor tom chantry

Tom Chantry, the former pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona, was convicted on four charges of child molestation.  The CV Bugle reports:

The skies turned dark, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed and hail rattled the Yavapai County Superior Court Wednesday while jurors decided the fate of former Prescott Baptist minister Thomas Chantry.

Two hours later, 12 members of that jury, one by one in open court, confirmed their guilty verdict in each of the four charges of child molestation that happened more than two decades ago. It took seven hours over two days for the jury to reach its verdict.

“If you tell, God is going to punish you. If you tell, you’re not going to go to heaven,” Chantry told his 11-year-old victim, Deputy County Attorney Susan Eazer explained to jurors in her closing arguments.

Chantry’s bond was revoked Wednesday. During the aggravated circumstances stage of the trial, immediately after the verdict, the jury determined that Chantry caused emotional harm to the victim, according to Eazer.

The victim felt shame, confused, felt it was his fault, the prosecutor said. The victim felt fearful the defendant was going to do this to other children, Eazer argued. She said the victim was angry at his parents for not protecting him from the minister.

Chantry’s attorney, Ryan Stevens, argued against the aggravated circumstances verdict because the state did not present any psychological evidence that Chantry caused emotional harm to the victim.

But the jury agreed with Eazer not to continue bail, and after the hearing the minister walked out the side door of the courtroom with officers behind.

The minister has been accused of multiple instances of abuse and molestation involving the children in his former congregation.

During a trial last summer, a Yavapai County Superior Court jury was deadlocked on the four molestation charges by just one juror and this is a retrial of that case, Eazer said.

During the trial last summer, Chantry was tried on a total of five felony charges of child molestation and three aggravated assault charges.

Jurors determined he was guilty on two of the aggravated assault charges and not guilty on one aggravated assault charge and one molestation charge.

Chantry is also facing nine other charges involving child abuse and molestation in another case.

In June 1995, Chantry became the new pastor at Miller Valley Baptist Church. Accusers and their families first reported incidents of abuse to the church but no reports were made to the police until 2015.

Eazar ended the two-week trial Wednesday, arguing in her closing arguments that the jurors should believe the witnesses’ testimony, including the testimony of the single victim in this case, who is now a grown man with children.

However, Stevens argued in his closing statement that the witnesses for the victim brought “personal agendas, family agendas, biases and prejudices.” He said the witnesses in this trial contradicted themselves when compared to their testimony in previous cases and cited several examples.

Stevens argued that the four molestations charges that Chantry is facing are not about allegations of “spanking.”

“Excessive spanking: That’s for another courtroom, on another day.” This case is about the “touching” of the victim in certain body areas, he said.

The defense attorney also questioned the quality of the witnesses’ memories of alleged incidents from more than 20 years ago.

The defense attorney also said there was no medical or scientific evidence to corroborate the victim’s testimony. There was no thorough police investigation, he added.

“They (the witnesses) have knowledge of spankings,” Stevens told the jury.

“And you look at the actual evidence that is paper-thin, this, ladies and gentlemen, is not what ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ looks like, to convict a person of child molesting.”

In her rebuttal to Stevens’ closing arguments, Eazer took exception at Stevens’ comment that spankings “have nothing to do with this case.”

What the defense never explained is why the minister would be spanking these children in this manner, Eazer argued. She asked why the defendant would deny the spankings, other than say they were light taps, she asked.

“Wouldn’t it be a little too creepy for the defendant to have pulled down the pants of children in his congregation, spanked them excessively, with objects repeatedly, leave marks, for things like spelling errors grammatical errors,” Eazer pointed out, “Why would each of those children describe those spankings,” she asked the jury.

“The spankings again are the gateway into the molestation,” Eazer said.

“You can’t get to what he did” to the victim without talking about the spanking, she said,

Eazer pointed out that the minister even got permission from the victim’s family to discipline children by spanking them, using his church influence, to let the victims know he was in “control.”

“Why did he do it? Motive.” Eazer said. “It was actually very brilliant in a sadistic and pedophilia perhaps way.”

Chantry showed the victim who was in control, he got joy from inflicting pain, watching the victim’s bottom turn red and this gave the minister an excuse to do what his motive and his intent was: “To touch this little boy,” the prosecutor said.

Eazer stressed that the witness did not come up with their stories about the minister together and that they should be believed even two decades later. She argued there is no reason to make up these stories just because they are angry at the minister. The testimony is not the kind of attention these witnesses and victims seek, she added.

Chantry, the son of Reformed Baptist luminary Walter Chantry, is scheduled to be sentenced on July 19, 2019.

For detailed coverage of Chantry’s trial and conviction, please check out the Thou Art the Man blog.

Black Collar Crime: Mormon Sunday School Teacher Noel Anderson Sentenced to 50 Years in Prison

noel anderson

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.

In March 2018, I posted a story about Mormon Sunday school teacher Noel Anderson’s arrest on aggravated sexual assault charges. At the time, Anderson admitted molesting ” four children between the ages of two and six over the past seven years.”  Yesterday, Anderson, 23, was sentenced to fifty years in prison without the possibility of parole.

Anderson’s arrest and conviction troubled his fellow church members.  One church member said, “He was an outstanding youth in our church. The gold standard for what you would want your son to grow up to be.” He may have been an “outstanding youth,” but he was also a sexual predator. Faith does not protect children from such people.

I do find myself wondering what, exactly, went wrong with this boy. News reports say that Anderson molested these children for seven years. This means he was 15 when he began preying on children.  While my heart goes out to the victims, I do feel sorry for Anderson. He will be 73 years old before he is released from prison. I wonder, what drove him to molest these children? Was there anything in his past, his upbringing, that was a contributing factor? Were there other victims, children that have not come forward? How did Anderson behave while on mission?

One thing is for certain, child molesters don’t stop harming children until they are caught.  I have no doubt that the victims coming forward saved other children from being preyed upon by Anderson. If they had not spoken up, Anderson would have continued in his predatory ways.  More ruined lives left in the wake of his vile behavior.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Volunteer Jim Arnold Accused of Child Molestation

jim arnold

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.

Jim Arnold, a youth ministry volunteer at Big Valley Grace Community Church in Modesto, California, stands accused of child molestation. The Modesto Bee reports:

Jim Patrick Arnold, 40, is accused of the continuous sexual abuse of a family member.

Arnold was a part-time volunteer youth ministry worker at Big Valley Grace Community Church. He has not been charged with any crimes associated with a child outside his family.

A week after Arnold’s Feb. 19 arrest, Senior Pastor Rick Countryman sent a letter to the parents of children in grades 5 through 12 saying Arnold had been removed from the ministry and is no longer allowed on the Big Valley Grace campus.

“We perform interviews and background checks on all employees and volunteers who work with children and youth …” the letter says. “Jim Arnold passed all background checks without report of any past indiscretions.”

The letter goes on to say the allegations occurred off campus with a relative, not with a Big Valley Grace student, but asks anyone with information about “inappropriate behavior … on the part of Jim Arnold” to first notify the Modesto Police Department, then Executive Pastor Bobby Kirchner.

In an email to The Bee Tuesday, Kirchner said he could not say in what capacity Arnold worked with children, if he ever accompanied them on any overnight trips, how long he’d been volunteering there and if he only worked with children in grades 5 through 12.

“I hope you can appreciate that Big Valley Grace cannot and will not comment further on an ongoing criminal case,” he said.

The alleged abuse by Arnold occurred on three different occasions between March 2018 and February 2019, according to a criminal complaint. He has been charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child, possession of an image of a minor engaged in sexual conduct, exploitation of a minor and using a concealed camera to secretly videotape another person.

….

In an email to The Bee Wednesday Reilly [Arnold’s attorney]  said, “Mr. Arnold not only promptly admitted culpability and accepted responsibility for his actions, he did so under circumstances in which he was suicidal. Law enforcement contact resulted entirely from Mr. Arnold’s own regret and shame, rather than as a result of a complaint by the minor.”

Judge Shawn Bessey kept Arnold’s bail at $100,000 but added a condition to his release that he have no unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 18, in addition to the terms of a restraining order granted to his wife.

Bruce Gerencser