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Tag: Sexual Abuse

Updated: Black Collar Crime: Sharon and Donald Windey Sentenced to Years in Prison for Abusing Adopted Children

sharon, donald, and steven windey

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 2018, Sharon Windey was accused of abusing and neglecting her adopted children. Her husband, Donald, and their biological son Steven, were also charged for their part in the abuse.

ABC-2 reported:

A De Pere woman and former Wisconsin State Trooper has been charged with several counts of child abuse and neglect of her adopted children. The abuse allegedly went on for over a decade despite reports to police and officials.

Sharon Windey, 54, appeared in Brown County court Thursday on charges of physical abuse of a child; strangulation and suffocation; battery; child neglect; and mental harm to a child.

A 42-page criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News details years of emotional, physical, and mental abuse inside the Windey home.

The complaint states the investigation found “overwhelming” confirmation that since 2006, there have been Child Protective Services referrals, police contacts and reports from school officials about the three children being victims of physical abuse, mental abuse, child neglect and inappropriate sexual contact in the home on Sullivan Street.

On Feb. 12, 2018, De Pere Police assigned a sergeant to investigate reports of possible abuse at the home where the children lived with Sharon Windey, her husband Donald Windey, and the couple’s 25-year-old son Steven Windey. One of the kids described Steven as a “third parent.”

Investigators started interviewing the three adopted children–a girl aged 15; a girl aged 14; and a boy aged 15.

The kids described being punched, choked, spanked, thrown against a wall, hair pulling, food punishment and exercise punishment.

Both girls said the parents used “excessive feedings of oatmeal” as a punishment. The boy once threw up the oatmeal and the father “made him eat his own vomit and the oatmeal,” reads the complaint. The father told the boy “people were dying in Africa and he needed to eat the puke and oatmeal.”

One of the girls described locks on the freezer, cabinet and pantry.

One girl told investigators that her dad would make her sit on his lap and he would kiss her on the lips. She said he would also touch or grab the girls in other places on their bodies.

She also talked about a punishment in which the kids were forced to strip down to their underwear and kneel in front of a fireplace.

The kids described a shower punishment. If they took a shower longer than seven minutes, they would have to pay money for every minute they go over.

One of the girls said the parents are “very careful” to try not to leave visible marks on them.

The boy described the parents as “delusional … religious freaks.” The boy said his dad hears his guardian angel who tells him what to do.

“They are outgoing and they try to put up the facade of being the perfect family outside of our house,” the boy told investigators. “They will scare us with punishments. They will take things out of our room. For being disrespectful, they will hit them; slap them across the face and stuff. The hitting has happened multiple times.”

The boy described the day of Feb. 11, 2018. He said Donald wanted the kids to go to church but they refused. The father told them to clean everything out of their rooms. One of the girls was denied medicine for not going to church. He said the mom started struggling with one of the girls. During the struggle, the mother was pushed down the stairs. The boy said Steven heard the commotion and charged at him and started to punch him in the head.

The police arrived at the home. The boy said the officers told Sharon and Steven to call the police earlier so it doesn’t escalate to this point. The officers left.

Later there was another fight when when of the girls wanted medicine. After the fight, the kids went to a friend’s home. The man at the home called police to report the abuse.

….

Neither Donald Windey or Steven Windey have been charged. They are identified by name in Sharon Windey’s criminal complaint.

In 2020, Sharon Windey was sentenced to four years in prison for abusing four children over twelve years.

The Green Bay Gazette reported:

A De Pere woman was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday for abusing her adopted children.

A jury found Sharon M. Windey, 56, guilty on eight counts of abusing four children over a span of 12 years. 

Her sentencing came a day after Brown County Circuit Court Judge John Zakowski found her husband, Donald A. Windey, 53, guilty of multiple counts of physical, mental, and sexual abuse of the children.

Their biological son, Steven D. Windey, is scheduled for a plea hearing on Feb. 7 in connection to charges related to his role in the abuse.

One of the three children told investigators that police officers who visited the home on Feb. 11, 2018, did not seem to believe the children’s statements that they’d been hit and choked because their home didn’t appear to be a “typical house for abuse,” according to court documents, because the children appeared to be well-fed and went to a good school. 

According to the criminal complaints and prosecution statements: 

The children were required to do a prayer ritual while standing on one foot wearing nothing but underwear, and were beaten with a belt if they lost their balance and put their foot down.

The girls were forced to strip to their underwear and sit on Donald Windey’s lap and kiss him. They were forced to sleep with Donald Windey in bed when Sharon Windey was away, and he would touch and kiss their intimate parts.

Steven Windey was often the designated enforcer of the physical abuse and put his hands around one of the children’s throat during a Feb. 11 incident.

Donald Windey forced a sick child to eat vomit-covered food after they became ill during a meal.

Sharon Windey used food as a form of punishment — often serving oatmeal for all three meals because the children didn’t like it. 

Sharon and Donald Windey locked kitchen cupboards so the children didn’t have easy access to food.

Donald Windey told the children he was “seeing demons” and “hearing voices” who were telling him to treat the children in this manner and that by doing so he was doing right by God.

Sharon and Donald Windey told the children they didn’t like them anymore and that they could no longer call them mom and dad.

Sharon and Donald Windey donated all of the children’s belongings to Goodwill in February, leaving each child with a bed and five days’ worth of clothes.

Donald WIndey was sentenced to seventeen years in prison on more than a dozen convictions of physically, mentally, and sexually abusing his adopted children.

Channel 2 reported:

A De Pere man convicted of more than a dozen charges of physically, mentally, and sexually abusing his adopted children is now facing 17 years in prison followed by supervision.

Donald Windey was found guilty on felony counts of repeated sexual assault of a child, being party to the crime of physical abuse, strangulation, or suffocation, and four felony counts of causing mental harm to a child.

As Action 2 News has reported, the criminal complaint said children living with Donald and Shirley Windey were inappropriately touched and kissed, as well as physically hurt and given food punishments.

At his sentencing Wednesday, Windey said he was “very sorry for the ways in which I failed as a father.” He said he was sorry for the times he made the children scared, made jokes at their expense, didn’t provide or know the help they needed, and that they didn’t feel the love for him that he felt for them. He said he had to be strict based on their behaviors.

He pointed out he didn’t have a prior criminal record and was involved in his church for years. He said he and his wife have lost everything, including their home, jobs and reputations.

Sharon Windey was sentenced in January to 4 years in prison.

Brown County Judge John Zakowski said at sentencing, “Don, you are a wonderful person, but you can be mean, too. I have seen it.”

He rejected Windey’s claim that the children conspired to tell a story so they could get out of the Windeys’ home, pointing out the kids’ claims went back years.

Zakowski also said he was irritated that the kids were put in this place. He said the Windeys, who believe in corporal punishment, should not have been allowed to foster or adopt these children.

“This should have been red flagged, and then the Windeys wouldn’t have been put in that situation, the kids would have been spared. The system failed. It’s a tragedy of immense proportions,” Judge Zakowski said.

Steven Windey was sentenced to eighteen months probation.

The Green Bay Gazette reported:

A De Pere man will spend 18 months on probation for his role in the abuse of his parents’ adopted children.

Steven D. Windey, 28, was often the designated enforcer during the physical abuse, according to court documents.

In interviews with investigators, the children described a February 2018 incident in which one of the children started arguing with their adoptive mother, former Wisconsin State Trooper Sharon Windey, who tried to push the 15-year-old but the child pushed her away instead.

She called for Steven Windey, who lived at the home, and told him the teen had pushed her down the stairs, according to court documents.

According to the children, Windey chased the child, pushed the child down on the couch, and put his hands around the child’s throat.

One of the children said that although Windey took responsibility for what he did by pleading guilty to battery and disorderly conduct, he should be held to the same standard as his parents, Sharon and Donald Windey.

“I’m sorry you couldn’t be strong enough to resist. I know everyone did what they had to do and your way was to become a puppet,” the child said.

Windey was initially charged with intentionally causing bodily harm to a child but that was reduced to the battery charge.  A felony charge of attempted strangulation and suffocation was dismissed but read in during his sentencing. 

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Stephen Mendoza Arellano Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Sex Crimes

stephen mendoza arellano

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 2017, Stephen Mendoza Arellano, youth pastor at Apostolic Assembly Church in Las Cruces, New Mexico was charged with ” attempted production of child pornography, enticement of a child to engage in sexual activity, and travel to meet a minor to engage in sexual conduct.”

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported:

An ordained minister from Las Cruces is facing federal child exploitation and pornography charges, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Stephen Mendoza Arellano, 30, an ordained minister for the Apostolic Assembly Church who serves as the youth president for the church’s New Mexico division, has been charged with attempted production of child pornography, enticement of a child to engage in sexual activity and travel to meet a minor to engage in sexual conduct, according to federal prosecutors.

….

According to a criminal complaint filed Oct. 5, Arellano began communicating with a 15-year-old girl in a sexually explicit manner beginning in May. It also alleges that he traveled from Las Cruces to El Paso for the purpose of engaging in sexual intercourse with the girl, who was a member of the Apostolic Assembly Church.

….

The complaint alleges that Arellano and the girl used Snapchat to communicate on a daily basis, and that at some point, their communications became sexually explicit. Arellano also allegedly sent nude photos of himself to the girl via cellphone message and requested nude photos of her between May and August.

The complaint also alleges that Arellano engaged in sexual activity with the girl in July and August, including at a youth convention in Las Cruces that was held at Hotel Encanto, where he allegedly took a nude photo of the girl.

The investigation allegedly revealed that Arellano was aware of the girl’s age because he assisted in making a video for her Sweet 16 birthday party.

If convicted on the attempted production of child pornography charge, Arellano faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in federal prison.

If convicted on the enticement charge, he faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years and a maximum of life in federal prison. If convicted on the traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct charge, Arellano faces a maximum of 30 years in federal prison.

….

An April 10, 2018 story by KRWG reports that Arellano has pleaded guilty to “traveling in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in sexual contact with a minor.”

in 2019, Arellano was sentenced to six years in prison for traveling in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in sex with a minor.

The Las Cruces Sun News reported:

Stephen Mendoza Arellano, 31, a youth minister from Las Cruces, was sentenced Thursday in federal court after being convicted of traveling across state lines intending to have sex with a minor.

Arrellano was sentenced to 71 months in prison, followed by 15 years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty April 9, 2018 to traveling in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in sex with a minor, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In doing so, he admitted that in the early summer of 2017, he began to pursue a romantic relationship with a 15-year-old victim, whom he knew through the Apostolic Assembly Church and their families’ relationship. 

He also admitted that in June 2017, he traveled from Las Cruces to El Paso with the intent to engage in illicit sexual contact with the victim.

According to court records, at the time he committed the offense, Arellano was an ordained minister of the Apostolic Assembly Church and was serving as the church’s District of New Mexico youth president. He was also a national ordained minister for the Apostolic Assembly Church.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Update: Black Collar Crime: Findlay Catholic Priest Michael Zacharias Convicted of Sex Trafficking, Sentenced to Life in Prison

Michael Zacharias

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 2020, Michael Zacharias, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Findlay Ohio, was accused of grooming and sexually assaulting minors for years. (I attended high school in Findlay in the 1970s. Several of my friends attended St. Michael’s.)

The Toledo Blade reported:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday arrested the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, alleging that he groomed and sexually assaulted minors for years, beginning in Toledo.

Special Agent in Charge Eric Smith said the Rev. Michael Zacharias, 53, is believed to have groomed and sexually assaulted minors since the late 1990s.

The Northwest Ohio Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force took the priest into custody after he presided at a 7 a.m. Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Parish. Father Zacharias faces charges of coercion and enticement, sex trafficking of a minor, and sex trafficking of an adult by force, fraud, or coercion, according to court documents.

….

Agent Smith addressed the media at a morning news conference outside the priest’s residence on Greendale Avenue in Findlay, which abuts the parking lot of the parish grounds. He said the criminal complaint filed against the priest includes accounts from two victims, but his department believes there have been others.

….

“It’s imperative that those other individuals out there come forward,” he said on Tuesday. “Your contact with us will remain strictly confidential.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo announced that Father Zacharias was put on administrative leave effective immediately upon hearing word of his arrest. This means he cannot exercise public ministry, administer sacraments, or present himself as a priest. Administrative leave is a precautionary measure while an allegation is being investigated.

Bishop Daniel Thomas responded in a statement:

“I am profoundly shocked and grieved to learn of these charges against one of our priests,” he said. “The Church cannot and will not tolerate any such behavior and takes any sexual abuse or misconduct on the part of a cleric with the utmost seriousness. As we await the outcome of the criminal investigation, our prayers go out to anyone affected by this situation.”

The diocese indicated that these are the first allegations raised against Father Zacharias.

Father Zacharias was ordained in 2002, according to the diocese.

He is most recently the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel in Findlay since 2017. The parish serves about 3,300 households, and is affiliated with St. Michael the Archangel School, which covers preschool through eighth grade.

The diocese identified his previous assignments as St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Toledo as a seminarian between 1999 and 2000; St. Peter Parish in Mansfield, Ohio as an associate pastor between 2002 and 2007; St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Van Wert as pastor between 2007 and 2011; St. Joseph and St. Ann Parishes in Fremont as pastor between 2011 and 2017; and St. Michael the Archangel in Findlay since 2017.

Investigators allege in court records that he began to groom two male victims, currently ages 32 and 26, while he was a seminarian and they were students at St. Catherine of Siena. One met Father Zacharias in the sixth grade, the other in the first grade, according to the complaint.

Each described to agents drug addictions that began in their teen years, and alleged that the priest would help fund their drug habits by paying them for oral sex. This began while they were underage and, in the case of one of the victims, continued until as recently as July.

The complaint indicates that these exchanges occurred at times in parish rectories, including Father Zacharias’ diocese-owned residence in Findlay.

The complaint also indicates that in the case of the victim with whom he was in touch as recently as July, Father Zacharias would request and at times pay for videos in which he performed sex acts on the victim and in which he confessed to grooming the victim. The complaint references multiple text messages between the victim and the priest.

….

Father Zacharias was one of several ordinands who spoke with The Blade in 2002, reflecting on their vocations amid seismic revelations of widespread clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church as reported by the Boston Globe.

Then-Deacon Zacharias said that his cohort of priests would bring with them an understanding of sexuality as a part of who they are.

“In the past I don’t want to say they denied it, but it seems as though they were told, ‘You’re going to be a priest, you’re going to be celibate,’” he told The Blade then. By contrast, he said contemporary seminarians were taught to have healthy and appropriate relationships.

Findlay Mayor Christina Muryn responded to the news in a statement on Tuesday.

“I am distraught by the news of the arrest of Father Michael Zacharias,” she said. “These allegations are not taken lightly, and the Findlay Police Department and our community at large will support the full and thorough investigation by the FBI. Such abuse of power, and perversion of sexuality is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated by any organization, individual, or society.”

Three years later, Zacharias was convicted of sex trafficking and sentenced to life in prison.

NBC-4 reports:

A former priest has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of his role in a sex trafficking scandal in Toledo, Ohio.

According to the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Ohio, 56-year-old Michael Zacharias was sentenced to life in prison, five years of supervised release, and fines of $25,500 after a jury found him guilty in May of five counts of sex trafficking.

Zacharias, of Findlay, was a priest-in-training when he first met three victims at a parochial school in Toledo in 1999. At the time the victims were five, 11, and 13 years old, though the release states they were victimized into their adult ages.

Evidence showed that Zacharias groomed the boys and became close with their families before eventually coercing the victims to engage in commercial sex acts. He then continued to victimize the boys into their adulthood by exploiting their opioid addictions to cope with the trauma of their abuse.

Zacharias served as a Catholic priest in northwest Ohio for over 20 years. His victims struggled in school, fell into opioid addiction, developed criminal histories and became financially dependent on him to avoid opioid withdrawal and homelessness.

Zacharias was arrested in August 2020 and charged with sex trafficking of a minor, sex trafficking of an adult by force, fraud or coercion, and coercion and enticement. At that time, the Diocese of Toledo said Zacharias was a priest and pastor of St. Michael the Archangel parish in Findlay and had been placed on administrative leave. 

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Why IFB Churches Are Breeding Grounds for Sexual Predators

sexual predators

MAX is currently streaming a four-part documentary titled Let Us Prey: A Ministry of Scandals. Let Us Prey focuses on allegations of sexual abuse in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Over 6,000 churches claim the IFB moniker, yet most Americans have never heard of the IFB church movement.

While this post is specifically about IFB churches, it could also be applied to Southern Baptist churches and other independent Evangelical congregations. Tens of millions of Americans are members of and affiliated with churches that may have denominational names but are independent governmentally. Control of their churches rests with their pastors and adult members, not a denomination or other outside authority. There are no checks and balances to keep abuse and misconduct in check. As a result, sexual misconduct by pastors, youth leaders, evangelists, missionaries, deacons, Sunday school teachers, worship leaders, choir directors, Christian school administrators and teachers, daycare workers, and church volunteers is common, far more than just a few bad apples in a barrel of otherwise good apples. If Let Us Prey does anything, it shines a bright light on the secrets and coverups that plague the IFB church movement. Years ago, 20/20 reported on sexual abuse in the IFB church movement. Other news reports, documentaries, books, podcasts, and articles have revealed that the IFB church movement has a big problem with sexual predators; so-called men of God who prey on children, teens, and vulnerable, impressionable adults. Adulterous affairs between preachers and church members are common too.

Why are IFB churches breeding grounds for sexual predators? The reasons are many, but let me give you a few.

IFB churches are governmentally independent. Most are pastored by one man. While IFB churches might have deacon boards and elders, typically the pastor is the CEO and has the final say on virtually everything. This means that there are few, if any, checks and balances on the pastor’s power and authority.

The pastor is considered a “man of God”; someone who is uniquely called by God to be a pastor — an irrevocable calling. How does a man “know” he is called by God to be a pastor? He “feels” it. He just knows in his heart of hearts that God wants him to be a pastor. How dare anyone suggest otherwise. This, of course, thanks to strict, rigid hierarchal structures, leads to authoritarianism — especially in churches where a pastor has been there for a long time.

Congregants are taught from the womb that they are to trust, respect, and obey their pastors. Challenging or standing against the so-called man of God is verboten. His words are final. Conditioning and indoctrinating church members to think this way about their pastors leads them to blindly trust their shepherds. How could it be otherwise? Is it any surprise, then, that sexual predators find that IFB churches are hunting grounds teeming with vulnerable, innocent potential victims?

While an increasing number of IFB preachers are prosecuted for sex crimes, way too many of them escape prosecution (or even detection). Why? Most IFB churches investigate sex crime allegations in-house. In other words, instead of immediately going to law enforcement or child protective services, alleged victims are encouraged (expected) to keep their allegations in the church (as commanded in Matthew 18). The most important thing to the church is protecting their “testimony.” If this means covering up sex crimes, so be it. It is not uncommon for victims of clergy sexual predation to be ignored, marginalized, or revictimized by being blamed for the pastor’s “weakness.” Teens, in particular, are often shipped off to IFB group homes or “ministries.” Out of sight, out of mind, the thinking goes.

Women and sexually aware teen girls are viewed as temptresses; people who prey on the sexual weaknesses of men and teen boys — including pastors and other church leaders. While male-on-male sex crimes are perpetrated by IFB preachers, the overwhelming majority of sex crimes committed by these men are against girls and women. Sadly, many victims never report the crimes against them. They know that they will be blamed or disbelieved. I have received countless emails and messages from IFB church members who, upon reading a Black Collar Crime post about their pastor, refuse to believe that he could ever do such a thing; that the accusing girl/woman is to blame for coming on to or seducing their pastor. They cannot or will not believe that their pastor could ever get a boner looking at another woman, let alone sexually assault them.

IFB churches have a warped understanding of sin and forgiveness. According to their understanding of forgiveness, no sin, including rape and sexual assault, is beyond the blood of Jesus; that any sin confessed to Jesus will be forgiven and the penitent’s slate wiped clean as if the act never happened. (1John 1:9) While an offending preacher might be expelled from the church for sexual misconduct, there’s nothing that keeps him from pastoring elsewhere or starting a new IFB church. David Hyles, an IFB preacher who committed numerous sex crimes, is still in the ministry today. Why? No one can tell him that he can’t. He’s been forgiven by God for raping church teenagers and bedding numerous adult church members, so why shouldn’t Hyles still be in the ministry? If God forgives you, so should everyone else — including the people you sexually assaulted.

I am sure this post will evoke outrage in the IFB church movement. How dare I paint with such a broad brush. However, the sheer number of allegations, crimes, arrests, and prosecutions suggests that the IFB church movement is rotten at its core. Not every church, of course, but enough churches that it makes me wonder why ANY church would want to self-identify as IFB. The same can be said for SBC churches and other independent Evangelical congregations. The problem is structural and theological. I can’t imagine many IFB churches being willing to change their theology, practice, or governance. Locked in by their belief that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, IFB churches often find it impossible to change. So they continue the multigenerational dysfunction and scandal, harming countless people in the process.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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 Christopher Pruitt Accused of Sexually Abusing Two Church Girls

pastor chris pruitt

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.

Christopher “Chris” Pruitt, pastor of Our Father’s House Ministries in Beaverton, Oregon, stands accused of sexually abusing two minor church girls. Pruitt was indicted on six counts of first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of third-degree sexual abuse.

The Beaverton Valley Times reports:

A Beaverton pastor was jailed last week after being accused of inappropriately touching two young girls who were members of his congregation.

A Washington County grand jury indicted Christopher Michael Pruitt, 39, of Beaverton on six counts of first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of third-degree sexual abuse Wednesday, Oct. 11.

Pruitt allegedly touched two girls, one under 14 years old, one under 18 years old, on Sept. 29 in Washington County, according to court documents. The girls were members of Pruitt’s congregation of Our Father’s House Ministries Church.

The church had been operating out of Pruitt’s home in Beaverton before moving to North Portland recently.

Pruitt was arrested Thursday, Oct. 5, and remains in jail as of Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 11. He has a probable cause hearing and a pre-trial release hearing scheduled for Friday, Oct. 13.

In 2017, Pruitt pleaded guilty to public indecency in Multnomah County. He was put on probation for one year for the Class A misdemeanor, according to court records.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Michael Sperou Found Guilty a Third Time, Sentenced to 13 Years in Prison

michael sperou

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 2015, Michael Sperou, pastor of North Clackamas Bible Community (previously named Southeast Bible Church) in Happy Valley, Oregon, was convicted on three counts of first-degree sexual penetration of a child under twelve and sentenced to twenty years in prison. In 2019, the Oregon Supreme Court:

ordered a new trial for Sperou after concluding that witnesses had improperly referred to the accuser as a victim. The court found that the reference may have undermined Sperou’s presumption of innocence and affected his right to a fair trial.

Sperou was later convicted a second time.

Fox-12 reported:

Michael Sperou was convicted by a jury Friday on two counts of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration.

The victim was under the age of 12 when the assaults occurred on two separate occasions between 1993 and 1996, according to investigators.

….

The district attorney’s office states the members gathered and lived among rental homes they shared and, as part of its evidence presentation, the state reported Sperou had a sexual interest in children; that he allowed minors to spend time with him in his bed; that he provided alcohol to minors; that he emotionally and financially manipulated church members; that he abused alcohol; and controlled nearly every aspect of church members lives, including how they raised their children.

Two other women testified in court that Sperou had sexually assaulted them while they were children in the church, but prosecutors said the statute of limitation has passed in those cases.

Sperou’s second conviction was also tossed on a legal technicality.

In May 2023, Sperou faced a third trial. Once again, he was found guilty and sentenced to 13 years in prison. It is expected that this conviction will stick.

KATU-2 reports:

A former pastor was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison after he was found guilty on his third trial for a sex abuse case.

Michael Sperou, 72, was found guilty on two counts of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration back in May.

The conviction followed two previous guilty verdicts that were overturned by legal technicalities.

The sexual abuse took place back in 1988 to 1996, when Sperou was a pastor. Investigators say he sexually abused seven young girls whose families went to the church.

When the case went to trial, charges for the abuse against six of the seven survivors was outside the statute of limitations. Still, all seven women were allowed to testify.

Sperou was convicted on all counts, however, the Oregon Supreme Court overturned the convictions in 2019 after finding the use of the word “victim” by witnesses was impermissible.

The case went back to trial in 2020, and the jury delivered an 11-1 guilty verdict. Later that year, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that verdicts must be unanimous for serious crimes.

The third trial took place in May 2023, where he was found guilty on the two counts of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration.

“It’s been a long and difficult road to today’s verdict for the victims in this case—all seven of them. The criminal justice system is hard on victims, and the strength and perseverance that the victim has shown through repeated trials is admirable and important,” said Senior DDA Melissa Marrero.

“It sends a message that she will not be silenced, and that abusers will be held accountable,” Marrero continued. “We’re thankful that the jury was able to see the truth, and that Ms. Clark and the other victims of Mr. Sperou remained committed to achieving justice over the near-decade that it took to get here. They are amazing women who went through the unthinkable, and their strength led to this result.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Update: Black Collar Crime: Baptist Childcare Worker Benjamin Roberts Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Sex Crimes

benjamin roberts

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.

Benjamin Roberts worked for several church-sponsored childcare facilities in Abilene, Texas. He was arrested in 2018 on child sex crime and child pornography charges. Law enforcement focused on Wylie Baptist Church Child Development Center.

Fox-4 reported:

An Abilene man with a history of working with kids has been arrested on child sex crime and child porn charges.

Benjamin Russell Roberts, 24, is charged with indecency with a child and possession of child pornography. His bond was set at $150,000 on each charge.

Roberts was arrested Wednesday after police served a warrant in a north Abilene home. Roberts “admitted to and was found to be in possession of child pornography,” according to the arrest report.

Abilene police said they had info that an unknown person downloaded child pornography from July 19 through Sept. 26, 2017. The investigation began on Feb 27.

On Wednesday, the cyber crimes division was able to identify Roberts as the person who was downloading child porn at his residence. Police said he lived at a community outreach home.

Police seized several devices — a Dell laptop, two iPhone 4s, a Samsung Galaxy, Sony USB — which contained child pornography. They also found “one pair of children’s underwear,” said Sgt. Lynn Beard. No children lived at the home.

Beard said Roberts admitted “to inappropriately touching a child under 12 years old last year.”

According to police, Roberts has worked at least three places where he was in contact with children, including the Wylie Baptist Church’s Child Development Center, Southern Hills Church of Christ daycare and the Beltway Park Church youth program.

….

Beard said each of the entities was “completely shocked” when they told them. He said one of them described Roberts as one of their best teachers.

….

An April 4, 2018 KTXS-12 report stated:

The director of the child development center at Wylie Baptist Church has been fired.

The director’s dismissal comes in the wake of the arrest of a 24-year-old Abilene man on child sex crime charges. Before being taken into custody last week, Benjamin Russell Roberts had previously worked at Wylie Baptist Church’s Child Development Center and youth programs associated with at least two other Abilene churches.

Wylie Baptist Church’s Senior Pastor Mike Harkrider issued a statement Wednesday.

“As you all know Wylie Baptist Child Development Center has been working closely with the Abilene Police Department and the Department of Family and Protective Services in regards to the Benjamin Roberts investigation. At this point in the investigation, the acting director of the Wylie Baptist Child Development Center, has been released from her position as per the Department of Family and Protective Services. The investigation is still ongoing and this is all we know at this time. We are in heartfelt prayer for all of those involved in this difficult situation — Wylie Baptist Church CDC Board of Directors”

When asked the name of Wylie Baptist CDC director, Harkrider said, “The information given on the previous email is all that we can give at this time.”

….

KTXS-12 added:

A south Abilene church daycare involved in a child sex crime investigation has been cited 19 times by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services since March of 2016.

Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge said that they have been working closely with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services during this investigation.

On the DFPS website, it states that the Wylie Baptist CDC was cited 19 times for deficiencies during inspections, with risk levels ranging from medium to high.

Three of the citations involved supervision of children and had a high risk level.

….

Police also said on Wednesday that the director was fired and could face charges. Wylie Baptist CDC was cited March 9, 2016 after “it was determined that the director is not routinely present at the operation,” according to DFPS.

Roberts, who did not have a previous criminal record, had passed a background check, but the child care center was twice cited, April 28, 2016 and August 10, 2016, for not updating background checks on its employees.

….

A June 2018 KTXS report detailed more allegations of sexual abuse against Roberts:

After police reviewed surveillance footage at Wylie Baptist Church and spoke with concerned parents, they discovered six of his victims.

There are a total of eight confirmed victims, according to police, and the crimes that Roberts is accused of include indecency with a child and “two or more acts of sexual abuse against children younger than 14.”

A mother reported to police that she found her child in the bathroom with Roberts, and while Roberts reportedly denied any sexual contact, the child told his mother that Roberts kissed him on the mouth and on other parts of his body.

On April 4, the child was interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center, where he also told authorities what Roberts had done to him.

Another child was interviewed at the CAC and told police that “Mr. Ben” would “tickle his tummy and rub his back.”

The child also reported that Roberts touched his private area at least two times.

A mother of one of the children in Roberts’ room at the daycare reported that she observed her child sitting on Roberts’ lap on three occasions and that she felt it was “inappropriate.” During a forensic interview, the child reported that Roberts would “slide his hands up her legs when he picked her up.” The child also reported that he would tickle her “belly and feet.” The child also reported that when she was in the playground, she ran up to Roberts and he touched her chest and then “said he was sorry.”

In surveillance footage captured between September and December of 2017, police discovered more evidence of Roberts inappropriately touching victims at Wylie Baptist Church CDC.

In March 2019, Roberts was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison,

The Abilene Reporter News reported:

Benjamin Roberts was sentenced March 1 to 20 years in prison by a federal court, Abilene police said in a news release Friday.

He was charged at the federal level with child pornography and still faces state charges for continuous sexual abuse of a child and second degree felony indecency with a child by sexual contact. 

Roberts was a worker at Wylie Baptist Church’s Child Development Center when he was accused of indecency with a child and possession of child pornography, according to Reporter-News archives.

Abilene detectives began investigating Roberts in February 2018 after serving a search warrant on a residence in the 400 block of Cockerell Drive in northeast Abilene, where a resident was downloading child pornography, police said Friday.

Roberts was arrested March 28 on charges of possession of child pornography, a third-degree felony, and indecency with a child, a second-degree felony.

In addition, a Taylor County grand jury in June indicted him on one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child.

In August, police said the local charge of possession of child pornography had been dropped.

….

Roberts, who had been working at Wylie Baptist Church Child Development Center for two years, previously was employed at a daycare at Southern Hills Church of Christ and with youth programs at Beltway Park Church.

Last year, police said Roberts had at least five different victims, all under the age of 14.

Police said they reviewed surveillance footage from the Wylie child care center.

In the footage, court documents said, Roberts acted inappropriately with children, including forcing them to straddle him, tickling them until they squirmed and touching them in inappropriate places.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Update: Black Collar Crime: Baptist Daycare Director Amanda McKee Convicted of Failing to Report Child Sex Crimes

amanda mckee

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 2018, Benjamin Roberts, a childcare worker at Wylie Baptist Church Child Development Center in Abilene, Texas was arrested on child sex crime and child pornography charges. He was also charged with the continuous abuse of children.  Later, an arrest warrant was issued for Amanda McKee, the director of Child Development Center. She was charged with failing to report the alleged crimes committed by Roberts. 

Roberts was later convicted on federal child pornography charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The Abilene Reporter News reported:

Benjamin Roberts was sentenced March 1 to 20 years in prison by a federal court, Abilene police said in a news release Friday.

He was charged at the federal level with child pornography and still faces state charges for continuous sexual abuse of a child and second degree felony indecency with a child by sexual contact. 

Roberts was a worker at Wylie Baptist Church’s Child Development Center when he was accused of indecency with a child and possession of child pornography, according to Reporter-News archives.

Abilene detectives began investigating Roberts in February 2018 after serving a search warrant on a residence in the 400 block of Cockerell Drive in northeast Abilene, where a resident was downloading child pornography, police said Friday.

Roberts was arrested March 28 on charges of possession of child pornography, a third-degree felony, and indecency with a child, a second-degree felony.

In addition, a Taylor County grand jury in June indicted him on one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child.

In August, police said the local charge of possession of child pornography had been dropped.

Roberts was released Aug. 22 from the Taylor County Jail after his bond was reduced to $50,000 each on the two remaining local counts.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation “picked up the charges and arrested (him)” days later on federal charges, police said.

Roberts’ re-arrest was a collaborative effort between Taylor County, the Abilene Police Department and the FBI.

Amanda McKee, director of the center at the time of Roberts’ employment, was arrested in May on charges of failing to report suspected child abuse. 

Police said there had been complaints by parents and staff to McKee regarding Roberts.

Roberts, who had been working at Wylie Baptist Church Child Development Center for two years, previously was employed at a daycare at Southern Hills Church of Christ and with youth programs at Beltway Park Church.

Last year, police said Roberts had at least five different victims, all under the age of 14.

In October 2019, McKee faced her day in court.

Big Country reported:

An Abilene day care manager accused of not reporting allegations of inappropriate behavior by an employee now charged with multiple child sex crimes testified during her trial Wednesday.

Amanda McKee, who served as manager of the Wylie Baptist Church Early Childhood Development Center, addressed a packed courtroom, saying “it wasn’t may job to watch a screen all day”, and that’s why she overlooked a lot of worker Benjamin Roberts’ behavior that employees and parents say was ‘strange’.

Surveillance videos played during Day 1 of McKee’s trial for Misdemeanor Failure to Report showed several instances of 26-year-old Roberts putting children on his lap while bouncing and kissing them.

One video showed him chest to chest with a child on his lap and another showed him standing in front of a different child, who was standing with his face close to Roberts’ lower body during a ‘lice check’.

McKee says she did see children in Roberts’ lap, but it was “not like that”, so she didn’t feel compelled to look into the allegations of inappropriate behavior multiple parents and employees say they reported to her.

Reports including allegations that Roberts would following young children into the bathroom and that he would have an erection while they sat in his lap.


When asked why she didn’t report the allegations, McKee began crying, saying that if people had come forward to her with information like this, she would have done something about it.

The parents and employees who say they reported to McKee also testified and maintained they did tell McKee they were suspicious with how Roberts interacted with the children.

A total of 20 children were forensically interviewed in connection to Roberts and investigators believe he had sexual contact with at least 8.

McKee was convicted and sentenced to probation, community service, and a fine.

Big Country reported:

A former Abilene daycare worker accused of not reporting allegations of inappropriate behavior by one of her employees was found guilty on Wednesday.

Amanda McKee, who served as manager of the Wylie Baptist Church Early Childhood Development Center, heard the verdict just after 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

She was sentenced by the judge to 1 year probation, 24 hours of community service, and a $1,000 fine plus court costs. The punishment is per a prearranged agreement between the defense and prosecution in the event a guilty verdict was reached.

She testified on Wednesday, saying “it wasn’t may job to watch a screen all day,” and that’s why she overlooked a lot of worker Benjamin Roberts’ behavior that employees and parents say was “strange.”

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Update: Black Collar Crime: IFB Missionary Jordan Webb Convicted of Sexual Abuse and Incest, Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison

jordan webb

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.

Jordan Webb, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) missionary to the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, was convicted of one count of second-degree sexual abuse with persons under the age of 12, a Class B felony; incest, a class D felony; and child endangerment, an aggravated misdemeanor. Webb was sent out as a missionary by Harvest Baptist Church in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The church also operates Harvest Baptist Bible College.

The Messenger reports:

It took a Webster County jury just under two and a half hours late Friday afternoon to convict a former Christian missionary of sexual abuse.

Jordan Dee Andrew Webb, 30, of Fort Dodge, was found guilty of one count of second-degree sexual abuse with persons under the age of 12, a Class B felony; incest, a class D felony; and child endangerment, an aggravated misdemeanor.

“We are pleased with the outcome and that the jury provided justice in this matter,” Assistant Webster County Attorney Bailey Taylor told The Messenger.

Taylor, along with Assistant Webster County Attorney Brad McIntyre, prosecuted the case.

Webb was arrested in April 2022 following an investigation by the Webster County Sheriff’s Office and Webster County Attorney’s Office that was prompted by “some health concerns involving a juvenile,” the WCSO reported at the time.

During the investigation, a search warrant was executed at 1940 225th St. in Webster County, which is owned by Harvest Baptist Church and is used for its Harvest Baptist Bible College.

From 2019 to February 2022, Webb served as a missionary in the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia. According to a now-deleted Facebook page and website for Webb’s “Christ in the Caribbean” missionary work in St. Lucia, Harvest Baptist was the “sending church” for his mission work.

Webb’s alleged victim, who will be known as Jane Doe, was diagnosed with gonorrhea in early April 2022. The Messenger does not identify victims of sexual assault. Just days before Jane Doe was diagnosed, Webb was also diagnosed with gonorrhea, Taylor said during trial. The state alleged that Webb committed a sex act on the victim, infecting her with the STD.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gonorrhea is a “very common” sexually transmitted disease that infects the mucous membranes of the reproductive tract, mouth, throat, eyes and rectum.

Over the course of the three-day trial, the jury heard testimony from a range of witnesses, including Dr. Regina Torson, an expert in child abuse pediatrics with UnityPoint Health — St. Luke’s Child Protection Center in Hiawatha. On Friday afternoon, the jury heard the closing arguments from the parties.

Taylor began her closing argument acknowledging that the state did not have any direct evidence of how the defendant allegedly infected the victim with an STD, but that she believes the sheer volume of circumstantial evidence proves Webb’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Among that circumstantial evidence is the timeline of when Webb was infected with gonorrhea and when the victim would have become infected.

Taylor poked holes through the defense’s suggestions that the infection could have been spread in a non-sexual manner — through using the same towel, or taking a bath together or helping a child clean up after using the toilet.

During Torson’s testimony, she stated that it is possible to contract gonorrhea by non-sexual means, but it is extremely rare.

“It’s possible, but is it reasonable?” Taylor asked the jury in her closing. “If this is so possible, why aren’t we seeing it more? … There is absolutely nothing reasonable about getting gonorrhea from a bathtub. That’s not a thing, because if it was, there’d be a lot more cases of gonorrhea. It wouldn’t be a sexually-transmitted disease, but it is.”

During his closing argument, defense attorney Dean Stowers challenged Torson’s credibility as a witness.

“She is a child abuse advocate,” he said. “She is not a neutral, unattached witness. Let’s get that straight.”

Stowers also emphasized that Torson’s expertise is not in infectious diseases and that she used words like “generally” and “typically” when describing how gonorrhea is spread.

“This case is a walking, talking, living, breathing reasonable doubt,” he said. “Every one of their witnesses is a reasonable doubt.”

In her rebuttal, Taylor again highlighted the amount of circumstantial evidence the state has presented.

“You put those pieces together to come to a conclusion,” she said. “Don’t ignore what happened to this child. Don’t ignore all of the evidence that you have seen.”

Just prior to the jury announcing its verdict, Stowers motioned for a mistrial based on something Taylor had said during her final rebuttal. After a brief conference, District Court Judge Christopher Polking denied the motion.

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for June 5 at the Webster County Courthouse. Webb is facing a maximum of 32 years in prison if all three counts are ordered to be served consecutively.

On June 9, 2023, Webb was sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for his crimes.

The Messenger reports:

A former Christian missionary has been sentenced to up to 25 years in prison after being convicted of second-degree sexual abuse, incest and child endangerment.

On Friday, District Court Judge Christopher Polking sentenced 31-year-old Jordan Webb, of Fort Dodge, to 25 years for the sex abuse charge, five years for the incest charge and two years for the child endangerment charge. Polking cited the charges stemming from the same offense as part of the reason for ordering the sentences to be served concurrently, or all at the same time.

The sex abuse charge does carry a mandatory minimum of 70 percent of the sentence, or 17.5 years, to be served in prison before Webb can be deemed eligible for parole. He must also successfully complete a sex offender treatment program before he can become eligible for release.

“The state is pleased with the outcome and sentence in this matter,” Assistant Webster County Attorney Bailey Taylor told The Messenger. “We’d like to thank law enforcement, medical professionals involved and the Webster County community’s help to ensure justice in this matter.”

Taylor, along with Assistant Webster County Attorney Brad McIntyre, prosecuted the case.

Webb was convicted by a Webster County jury on April 28. A year before, he was arrested following an investigation by the Webster County Sheriff’s Office and Webster County Attorney’s Office that was prompted by “some health concerns involving a juvenile,” the WCSO reported at the time.

From 2019 to February 2022, Webb served as a missionary in the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia. According to a now-deleted Facebook page and website for Webb’s “Christ in the Caribbean” missionary work in St. Lucia, Harvest Baptist Church in Fort Dodge was the “sending church” for his mission work.

Webb’s alleged victim, who will be known as Jane Doe, was diagnosed with gonorrhea in early April 2022. The Messenger does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Just days before Jane Doe was diagnosed, Webb was also diagnosed with gonorrhea, Taylor said during trial. The state alleged that Webb committed a sex act on the victim, infecting her with the STD.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gonorrhea is a “very common” sexually transmitted disease that infects the mucous membranes of the reproductive tract, mouth, throat, eyes and rectum.

In a motion for a new trial filed last week, Dean Stowers, attorney for Webb, argued that Polking’s decision to admit statements the victim made to a nurse practitioner at the Allen Child Protection Center in Waterloo violated the confrontation clause under the U.S. and Iowa constitutions. Because the victim was not called to testify at trial, Stowers argued, statements she made were hearsay and did not fall under a medical exception to hearsay.

Stowers also argued that the victim’s statements were “fundamentally ambiguous and capable of causing the jury to speculate as to what [the victim] meant.”

In his motion, Stowers also attacked the circumstantial evidence on which the state’s case is based.

“When one looks at the evidence in this case, we have a bunch of speculative inferences and conclusions that would have to be drawn to get to the verdicts we have today,” he wrote. “The weight of the evidence does not support these verdicts.”

On Friday afternoon, following brief oral arguments from the parties, Polking denied the defense’s motion for a new trial and proceeded to the sentencing.

Before Polking handed down the sentence, he gave Webb an opportunity to speak on his own behalf.

“I would just like to say that I still maintain that I did not do this,” Webb said.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Bruce Gerencser