Tag Archive: Crosspoint Community Church Modesto

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Les Hughey Accused of Additional Sex Crimes

les hughey

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.

A year ago, I posted a story detailing sexual abuse allegations against Les Hughey, pastor of Highlands Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. The alleged sexual abuse occurred decades ago while Hughey was youth pastor at First Baptist Church (now Crosspoint Community Church) in Modesto, California. This revelation forced Hughey to resign as pastor of Highlands Church. At the time, Hughey release the following statement:

Over 40 years ago, as a church intern in California, I sinned and harmed the most important relationships in my life. I was unfaithful to my God, my wife, and the ministry, and was rightly removed from that church.

I engaged in consensual relations with fellow college-aged staff. With God’s help, my wife’s forgiveness, and discipline and counseling from church authority, I sincerely repented and we put our lives back in order. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to undo what happened, so I instead accept and live with the consequences, even now so many years later.

My family and the authority over me at my church are aware of this history. I thank God for his forgiveness and grace.

Pastor Les Hughey

Hughey, according to the Arizona Republic, lied about the victim being “college-aged staff.” The Republic reported at the time:

Carey Fuller was shocked to see the news about Hughey. For decades, she thought she had been the only one to receive one of what Fuller called his “famous full-body massages.” That massage crossed the line when he groped her genitals, she told The Republic.

Hughey, then a youth group leader at Scottsdale Bible Church, was attractive and charismatic, Fuller recounted. He was married and in his late 20s at the time, she said.

“Everyone always wanted to be around him,” she said. “It was always a gift to be around Les.”

Fuller said she was honored to be selected as one of the few who were invited to hang out in the church van one night during a mission trip to Mexico when she was 18.

She happily accepted when Hughey offered her one of his “famous” massages, but she didn’t know what to do when it suddenly went too far, Fuller said. Somehow, no one noticed in the van’s dim light, so she figured it had must have been an accident.

“I wasn’t a strong enough person and I didn’t want to offend anyone there,” Fuller said. “I didn’t think to call him out, so I just laid there.”

Fuller said she didn’t realize that what had happened to her was sexual assault until she saw an article on azcentral.com Sunday.

Within hours, she learned at least five other women she had known during her time in the youth group said they had experienced the same thing, she said.

Her best friend, Juliet Buckner Pekaar, was one of them.

Hughey pulled the same “massage” ruse when they would travel together on band trips when she was 16, Buckner Pekaar said. The abuse continued until she married another youth pastor at the church when she was 19.

“His power was in making you think you were the only one,” Buckner Pekaar said. “Nobody ever talked to each other, so there was just this shame and depression.”

Neither of the women reported the incidents to police, they said.

Buckner Pekaar said she did attempt years ago to tell Scottsdale Bible Church staff members about Hughey’s actions, but she said she stopped after their reaction made it clear they weren’t interested.

I concludes the April 2018 post with this: Dare I ask the proverbial rhetorical question: can a leopard change its spots? According to a May 4, 2019 story by Erin Tracy in the Modesto Bee, the answer to this question is a resounding NO! Tracy writes:

A Modesto youth pastor accused of sexual abuse in his church here decades ago continued to prey on young women after moving to Arizona, a Scottsdale police report issued this week alleges.

The 100-page report compiled by Scottsdale Police Detective Tara Ford contains interviews with more than a dozen victims and witnesses who described sexually predatory behavior, including full-body massages, by Les Hughey during his time as a high school youth pastor at Scottsdale Bible Church in the mid to late 1980s.

The report was submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney several weeks ago for consideration of charges against Hughey, said Scottsdale Police Sgt. Ben Hoster. The county attorney’s office did not return calls for comment about what charges Hughey could face.

The investigation began last April after The Bee broke the story about Hughey’s alleged sexual misconduct during the time that he worked as a youth pastor at a popular church in Modesto.

Scottsdale police conferred with Modesto police on the investigation, but no reports were filed here.

Hughey, in his 30s and 40s at the time under investigation in Arizona, would tell dirty jokes and stories and normalized back rubs among the youth so it didn’t seem inappropriate when he requested massages from the teenage girls, some as young as 15, according to the report.

He was able to get the job at Scottsdale Bible Church and work at several other churches before that because his alleged sexual abuse of girls at First Baptist Church in Modesto was covered up, according to a victim and two witnesses. First Baptist has since become CrossPoint Church.

Tracy Epler told The Bee last year that Hughey was her youth pastor at First Baptist in the late 1970s, when he coerced her into having sex when she was a 17-year-old virgin.

Four other women at First Baptist said Hughey would give them back rubs that bordered on fondling.

Epler confided in church leaders, but instead of an investigation, Hughey got what Epler described as a hero’s sendoff, a “one-man Academy Awards show.”

Hughey went on to work at churches in Sonora and Little Rock, Arkansas, before working at Scottsdale Bible Church for about a decade prior to founding Highlands Church, also in Scottsdale.

Hughey created what victims and witnesses interviewed by Scottsdale police described as a cult-like culture during his time as a youth pastor at Scottsdale Bible Church.

They described Hughey as charismatic and charming, the “life of the party.” He sang and played the guitar in a band and had a “sort of celebrity status and a way of drawing people in.”

They also described a man who could be cutting, tempestuous and narcissistic.

….

Hughey preached purity but created a sexually charged environment, according to victims and witnesses. Back rubs among the youth were encouraged, and sexual jokes were common.

Hughey used choir and mission trips to begin physical contact with the girls through full-body massages. This is how the grooming started, several of the women said.

All of the women interviewed said that within the youth group there was an “in crowd,” Hughey’s “inner circle,” that got to stay up late with him during mission and choir trips and sit up front with him in the van he’d drive on the trips.

Fuller said she wanted nothing more than to be part of Hughey’s inner circle, to be “one of the cool kids.” Being invited at night into his van, which he’d sleep in during the trips, was like “reaching the pinnacle.”

The first and last time Fuller accepted an invitation to his van, she was one of his staff during a trip to Mexico in 1989. There were others in the van, but it was dark.

Fuller said she gave Hughey a back massage and then they switched. Hughey started at her feet, worked his way up her legs, and touched her vagina through her shorts and underwear, according to the report. She jumped, then froze, and Hughey moved his hands back to her calves. She thought it must have been an accident, but then Hughey made his way back up her legs, rubbing her buttocks and in between her thighs.

Fuller said she doesn’t remember how it ended or how she got back to her bed.

“The next day, she didn’t want to see him, talk to him or make eye contact with him,” the report reads.

While it pained her to do it because she was “blackballed” from the group, Fuller quit upon their return to Scottsdale.

The physical contact often would start with the girls giving Hughey massages. He was usually wearing only shorts or swim trunks and would instruct them to straddle him and massage his buttocks and thighs, then eventually he’d tell them to lie down so he could give them a massage, according to the report.

During her interviews with Scottsdale police, Jennifer Parrella described hearing about “Les’ famous massages” before she experienced one inside Hughey’s van during a mission trip to Mexico when she was 15.

She said there was another male staffer there as well as a teenage boy and that they were all making fun of her because Hughey had to instruct her on what to do.

When Hughey massaged Parrella, she said, she remembers feeling “he was heavy on top of me” and that he touched the side of her breasts.

Juliete Buckner Pekaar said Hughey massaged her on several occasions during church functions and after babysitting at his home. One of the incidents occurred during a choir trip to California. During the trip, they were staying at a cabin when Hughey gave her a massage.

“He sat on her butt, unlatched her bra, and then started touching the sides of her breasts, and then touched her at the groin area, before actually touching her vagina outside her clothing,” Ford’s report reads.

None of the women reported having sex with Hughey, although one said her memories of that time are too repressed to know for sure whether she did. She also was being molested by her father and said she was “the perfect target for Les.”

Hughey resigned as senior pastor of Highlands, the church he founded, days after The Bee broke stories about Hughey’s behavior at both First Baptist Church and Prescott Bible Church.

 

 

Black Collar Crime: Jennifer Roach Tells Story of Sexual Abuse at First Baptist Church in Modesto, California

brad tebbutt

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.

Garth Stapley, a reporter for the Modesto Bee, details the story of Jennifer (Graves) Roach’s sexual abuse in the 1980s at the hands of Brad Tebbutt, youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Modesto, California. (The church is now called Crosspoint Community Church) Tebbutt was never charged for his crimes, and he is still actively involved in the ministry today at Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri.

The following excerpted story is almost 4,000 words in length. Please take the time to read the entire story.

The 27-year-old married youth pastor in Modesto consoled the troubled girl, whose father had just died. Eventually, he kissed her. Then he fondled her.

She was 14.

Over the next 2 1/2 years, Brad Tebbutt sexually abused Jennifer Graves in his office at First Baptist Church, a prominent Modesto congregation, and in his car. After school, before his wife returned from work, he would have sex with her in his home, she said.

At the end of her junior year at Beyer High School, in 1988, Tebbutt and his wife moved away. A recent publication boasts of his 30-year career as a youth pastor, and he now works in a seniors ministry for the International House of Prayer of Kansas City.

How Tebbutt kept his jobs at churches and religious schools, in Oregon and Missouri, is unknown. Interview requests submitted to several known employers and former employers mostly have gone unanswered.

It’s clear that soon after the abuse ended, First Baptist leaders knew.

A few months after Tebbutt left town, the girl confided in another youth pastor, who told then-high school pastor Marvin Jacobo, who has led a long and distinguished ministry both at the church and at a respected religious nonprofit group in Modesto.

Jacobo recently confirmed that he had called Tebbutt after the girl came forward all those years ago, and said Tebbutt confessed to him. Jacobo then contacted Tebbutt’s wife and his boss at the time, he said.

Tebbutt refused multiple interview requests made via telephone and email, and Jacobo would respond only in writing, sidestepping some questions.

The current lead pastor at First Baptist – which changed to CrossPoint Community Church in 2010 – arrived long after church leaders were rocked in private by this sex scandal, as well as two others where adult volunteers molested several boys, in the 1980s.

Enough boys shared their stories with authorities to convict the two men, although a delay in reporting allowed one to prey on more boys at another church down the road, court documents say.

But Tebbutt’s victim – still a teenager, when she finally came forward – was told to forgive and forget.

Church leaders never informed her mother. They never went to police. They termed it an affair, she said.

“They gave me specific directions to never speak of the events to anyone, because it would damage the reputation of the church, and of Jesus himself,” she said. “The abuse was swept under the rug.”

Two friends from those days who also attended First Baptist, Deborah Jules Vilmur and Jennifer Vanderpol Tracz, recently confirmed that she had confided in them about the abuse not long after it happened.

Jennifer Graves Roach turned 47 on Feb. 25. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband and teenage son. Since those days in Modesto, Roach has been ordained in the Anglican Church, she’s earned college degrees and she now counsels sexual abuse victims, among other clients, in a religious therapy group near her home.

And she’s become a silence breaker.

….

In the late 1970s and early ’80s, First Baptist Church was “my whole world, in a lot of ways,” recalled Roach, who attended Sunday services, midweek youth activities and summer camp. “I loved it. It was a second family to me.”

When her father died in a car accident, her mother had trouble coping with three teen children. Roach often was depressed as well, she said, and thought about harming herself. She brightened when the youth pastor in charge of Beyer High paid her attention. She thought her prayers had been answered when Tebbutt and his wife invited her to stay in their apartment, at first overnight, then indefinitely.

“They saved me from a difficult situation at home,” Roach said. “There was lots of affirmation; ‘You’re a special case,’ he would tell me. ‘You’re the prettiest, the smartest, the funniest’ – things you would tell someone to get them to trust you. I absolutely was groomed for abuse.”

Sexual encounters went on for 2 1/2 years, she said. “He became my entire emotional support, and I was this vulnerable, depressed, anxious girl who had just lost her dad and couldn’t get along with her mom and had no other options. At that age, I didn’t feel I had other choices, and he took advantage of that.”

Roach wondered why she didn’t become pregnant. After marrying, she didn’t conceive for five years. “Fertility doesn’t come easy to me,” she said.

When Tebbutt left town, she remained silent for six months. Reading Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” in her senior year at Beyer, a dark work about terrible secrets, prompted her to confide in another youth pastor during a youth activity at the former Roller King.

“I knew she was sad a lot. I could tell she was carrying something heavy. So I just asked her what was going on,” said Scott Mills. “I imagine she was at the point of having to tell somebody or implode. You have to get that out somehow.”

Mills later started and pastored his own church in Modesto, Three Rivers Christian Fellowship, for 14 years before leaving in 2013 for a career in marketing.

“Knowing what I do about life and kids and parents and peer influence and hurt and pain and damage, it grieves me greatly,” Mills said. “Not only what happened to her, but that she didn’t feel she had the support she needed. Looking back, I’m pained by the lack of appropriate response.”

….

“They completely and entirely mishandled the situation,” Roach said. “At first, they didn’t believe me. At subsequent meetings they kept asking me if I wanted to take my story back. They asked if I was just doing this for attention.

“At one point they put me in a room with four or five adult men and they asked me to describe with specific words what had happened. And I was a 17-year-old girl.

“They failed to tell my mom. I was a minor and they kept it from my family. They should have reported it to police and they didn’t. They told me never to speak about this again.”

….

A year before Tebbutt left Modesto, Bob Chapman, then 53, pleaded guilty to molesting 13-year-old boys he met at First Baptist.

Chapman, a church organist, was entrusted to hold meetings of groups of boys in his Modesto home, said one of them, Larry Spencer. One time, Chapman hosted a sleepover. The evening discussion was about puberty and masturbation, Spencer said. Then they watched movies and drifted off to sleep.

“I woke up in the middle of the night with him (Chapman) touching me,” Spencer said. “I freaked out. I didn’t know if I should tell anybody, so of course I didn’t. I really can’t tell you why, if it was out of shame or something. How do you tell somebody, ‘Hey, this guy was touching me’?”

Chapman and his family were good friends with and lived close to Spencer’s foster family, he said. Chapman continued molesting him, in the car while giving him rides home from church, and in the swimming pool during youth activities, Spencer said. In all, he was abused maybe 10 times over a couple of years, he said.

One day, Spencer was in the attic installing the top end of a ceiling fan. He peered through the ceiling hole into a room and saw Chapman grab another boy, he said.

“I said, ‘Enough’s enough. This guy’s going to screw somebody else up,’” Spencer said, and the story came out. His foster parents were “mad as hell at me, for exposing it and bringing them some sort of shame,” he said.

“I was not very happy with First Baptist, either,” Spencer said. “They kind of pushed me aside as well. I had been extremely involved, at every activity. After I talked about Bob, I was kind of an outcast.”

Boys in the group were questioned, and Chapman was charged in Stanislaus County Superior Court with abusing Spencer and two others. “We were all saying, ‘Fry him; give him as much time as you can,’” Spencer said. A negotiated deal ended with Chapman pleading guilty to two counts of child molestation in return for a 300-day term in County Jail.

….
About the time of Chapman’s conviction, George Austin, a retired California Highway Patrol officer and Sunday School teacher at First Baptist, was molesting boys as well. Court documents indicate that someone got the idea something was going on.

“When (Austin) became suspected of molest at the First Baptist Church and was sent on his way, he then went to the Orangeburg Baptist Church, where he was a youth leader and where he then molested” two brothers multiple times, said then-prosecutor John Goulart, according to a court transcript. The brothers were 7 and 11, a charging document said.

Goulart, now on Modesto City Hall’s legal team, doesn’t remember specifics. “Most likely, it would have been the parents of victims who would have told me that the First Baptist Church discovered the molests, (dismissed) Austin and allowed him to move on to another church where he was in a position to commit more molests,” Goulart said in a recent email.

Austin had taken boys on trips to his former patrol office, to Santa Cruz, to Great America, and camping in the mountains. “These boys were looking up to this man as a father figure, a youth leader, a retired CHP officer, someone they trusted,” Goulart said in the transcript. “He put himself in a position where he could molest the boys.”

Court documents suggest Austin had about 10 victims in all. One spoke when he was sentenced for 12 counts of child molestation, including oral copulation.

“It’s a lot to live with, knowing you’re molested,” the young man said, according to a transcript. “It’s a hell of a lot. He was like a father figure to me. For a long time there I called him ‘Dad,’ even though he was molesting me. He was still the only father figure I ever had in my life.

“He left a very damaging scar. I just wanted to say that I feel he has damaged all of our lives, and I trust you to decide. Amen.”

The judge gave Austin a 28-year sentence. Now 80, he lives in a care home for the elderly in Modesto.

….

In his recent letter to The Bee, Jacobo, now executive director of City Ministry Network in Modesto, said he didn’t go to Modesto police about Tebbutt 30 years ago because Roach “did not want to press charges. We wanted to honor her wishes in that and begin her process of healing.”

Like teachers, child care workers and others, clergy are mandated reporters, required to tell law enforcement when they come across or suspect abuse. But clergy weren’t added to the list of occupations, now 46 long, until 1997, eight years after Roach exposed Tebbutt to church leaders.

At the time, Roach accepted Tebbutt’s “direct apology,” Jacobo said, and “seemed satisfied with the process and the results. I feel like we did everything we knew to do in addressing it. If she now feels this was insufficient, then we sincerely apologize.”

Roach called that “a ‘sorry-she-got-her-feelings-hurt’ apology.”

It’s true that church leaders scripted an arranged meeting a few years after the abuse ended, where Tebbutt said he was sorry and she was pressured to accept the apology, she said.

The fallout for Tebbutt, if any, is unclear.

“There were no allegations of sexual misconduct against Brad that we were aware of at the time he was hired,” said Randy Shaw, field director with the Christian and Missionary Alliance Northwest in Oregon, where Tebbutt worked from 1999 to 2004.

At some point, Tebbutt went through an “18-month repentance and restoration process” with a psychologist, according to a note recently sent to Roach from his church in Missouri, Forerunner Christian Fellowship. He “continues to express deep sadness and sorrow over his actions,” wrote Dale Anderson, the church’s director of pastoral support.

Tebbutt’s other known employers over the years, having been informed of Roach’s story, failed to respond to multiple requests for information. They include Horizon Community Church and Horizon Christian School, near Portland, where he was a chaplain and teacher, and the International House of Prayer of Kansas City, where Tebbutt now works; a spokesman referred The Bee’s sister company, The Kansas City Star, to IHOPKC’s media policy, which reads: “We will not give out sensitive information.”

A few months ago, the publishing arm of MorningStar Ministries released a DVD of a conference featuring several presenters, including Tebbutt, called “Motivated by Love.” The company’s founder and executive director, Rick Joyner, declined to comment.

Tebbutt’s latest position is director of the Simeon Internship, a three-month training program for people 50 and older at the International House of Prayer of Kansas City. Multiple calls to his office went unanswered; in an email, Tebbutt asked if he should submit a statement, then went silent for three weeks.

Tebbutt did reach out to Roach in 2005 with a lengthy letter, apparently as an exercise in repentance; it arrived in an envelope bearing the name of a Christian therapy group in Oregon. The Bee obtained a copy.

“Let me state clearly that regardless of how this has been treated in the past, I understand that I sexually abused you,” one part reads. “There are hurts that you should have never experienced, and they were not yours to own. I grieve over this.”

….

You can read the entire story here.

An April 6, 2018 Modesto Bee story states:

A former youth minister at a prominent Modesto church accused of sexually abusing a then-teen girl three decades ago is the target of an upcoming independent investigation.

GRACE, or Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, led by a grandson of the late Billy Graham, will conduct the probe of Brad Tebbutt, who now works for a religious organization in Missouri, GRACE confirmed to The Modesto Bee late Thursday.

The alleged victim in Modesto, Jennifer Graves Roach, now 47, said she will cooperate with the investigation.

“You don’t get better than that,” Roach said of GRACE’s “impeccable credentials.” She said, “I trust them, and (a third-party investigation) is what I’ve been pushing for.”

….

The Kansas City Star, a sister paper to The Modesto Bee in the McClatchy company, also received confirmation Friday morning from the International House of Prayer of Kansas City. That group had placed Tebbutt on leave March 1 after a February Bee report that included a Modesto clergyman saying Tebbutt had confessed to him about the abuse.

Tebbutt worked for Modesto’s First Baptist Church when he sexually abused Roach for about 2 1/2 years starting when she was 14, shortly after losing her father in a car accident, she told The Bee. He was 27 and married.

IHOPKC cited “inconsistencies between the parties’ accounts of what took place 30 years ago” in an email to the Kansas City newspaper. Tebbutt will remain on leave, IHOPKC said.

First Baptist, which changed to CrossPoint Community Church in 2010, did not refer the girl’s report to authorities and Tebbutt went on to a 30-year career in youth ministry elsewhere before being hired to lead a seniors internship program in Kansas City.

The investigation by GRACE, a nonprofit based in Virginia, will stretch from Tebbutt’s ministry with First Baptist in Modesto to subsequent years with Horizon Christian High School near Portland, Ore., as well as his time with IHOPKC, said GRACE’s Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian, in an email.

“Due to the fact that this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot make any further statements at this time,” Tchividjian said. He is a former child abuse prosecutor and grandson of Graham, the nation’s most well-known Christian evangelist who died in February at age 99. Tchividjian also is a professor at Liberty University School of Law.

Roach said, “The idea that potentially other victims could be found and receive some help is immensely satisfying.” She now is an Anglican minister and therapist near Seattle who counsels victims of sexual abuse, among other clients, and she is married and has a teenage son.

….