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Tag: Sexual Assault

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Ronnie Killingsworth Sentenced to 84 Years in Prison for Sex Crimes Against Minor Girls

pastor ronnie killingsworth

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.

Earlier this year, Ronnie Killingsworth, pastor of Rephidim Church (an Independent Bible church) in Wichita, Texas, was charged with six counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact.

Texoma’s reported:

Ronnie Allen Killingsworth, 78, of Wichita Falls, is charged with six counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact. The indictment alleged Killingsworth committed sex crimes against three different female victims under the age of 17 over the course of eleven years.

On Tuesday, February 27, 2024, officials with the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, tasked with prosecuting the case against Killingsworth, filed a notice filled with multiple alleged bad acts or offenses they intend to introduce into evidence.

The state’s notice filed on Tuesday includes previously unreleased details on the indecency charges pending against Killingsworth, the longtime “Pastor-Teacher” of Rephidim Church, a non-affiliated congregation located on Allendale Road in Wichita Falls.

Previously, it was unknown whether or not the allegations against Killingsworth were connected to Rephidim Church. However, new details in the state’s notice appear to confirm that at least five of the six charges are linked to the church.

The state’s notice alleged that in October 2000, Killingsworth touched a female victim under 17 years old and kissed her.

According to the state’s notice, in September 2001, Killingsworth allegedly touched a second female victim under the age of 17 and told her that if she didn’t separate from her friendships outside of the church, she would be kicked out.

The state’s notice also alleged Killingsworth told the victim that she was a bad child and that God would punish her if she didn’t do what he said. He’s also accused of telling the victim that God would punish her family if she disobeyed.

Court documents alleged that when the victim told her mother that Killingsworth touched her, Killingsworth said that all he did was spank her and that the child was a liar. He is also accused of telling the victim that if she continued to dress provocatively, she would end up getting treated in a derogatory way.

According to the state’s notice, on May 29, 2011, Killingsworth allegedly touched one of the victims, a female under the age of 17, while discussing “duties such as sex and babies.”

Killingsworth is also accused of making the first alleged victim touch him and grooming the victim by showing favoritism by giving the victim books and instructing them to “keep the books secret and not tell anyone.”

….

While released on bond, Killingsworth is prohibited from having any contact with the victims. He is also prohibited from going to the victims’ home, daycare, or school. Killingsworth is also required to provide a specimen of DNA to local law enforcement.

Concho Valley Home Page reported:

Killingsworth is the longtime “Pastor-Teacher” of Rephidim Church, a non-affiliated congregation located on Allendale Road in Wichita Falls, founded in 1972.

According to former members of Rephidim Church, Killingsworth previously served as the pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Iowa Park before he was asked to resign. A small following of members split from that church and formed Rephidim Church.

In January 1999, several former members of the church told reporters with KFDX and KJTL that they’d decided to leave the church due to the teachings of Killingsworth, claiming they contained “the tell-tale signs of a cult.”

However, during a phone interview with former KFDX Reporter Megan Henderson in 1999, Killingsworth adamantly denied being a cult leader.

After the recent indecency with a child charges were filed against Killingsworth, several former members spoke out with similar allegations.

Many of the “extraneous offenses and bad acts” alleged by the prosecution in the notice filed on Tuesday are teachings from Killingsworth that appear to confirm the statements made by former members of Rephidim Church.

According to the notice, the prosecution alleged that Killingsworth “controlled the congregation through fear, manipulation, and brainwashing.”

The state’s notice alleged that Killingsworth taught his congregation that they weren’t allowed to have a personal relationship with God. They said Killingsworth taught that they couldn’t know God without the teaching of their “right pastor teacher,” who was Killingsworth.

According to the state’s notice, Killingsworth discouraged his church members from reading the Bible and to only listen to his interpretation. The notice said the congregation was not allowed to question Killingsworth, his teachings, procedures, or authority.

The notice alleged that Killingsworth “preached that he was the only pastor in the United States who is teaching the truth.” The notice said Killingsworth claimed to be the only person in the area authorized to teach God’s word and that “all other pastors in the area are considered evil and leading people astray.”

The prosecution alleged in the notice that Killingsworth taught his congregation the doctrine of separation, meaning that his members were only allowed to socialize with people within the congregation.

The notice said Killingsworth taught that congregants were not allowed to associate with family members unless they were members of the church and that Rephidim members were only allowed to marry someone in the church.

According to the prosecution’s notice, Killingsworth taught that once someone left the church, they were to be shunned or exiled, that people who left the church were called “Satan’s minions,” “enemies of the cross,” or “dead flies.”

The prosecution’s notice also alleged that Killingsworth would single out people from the pulpit, would yell for people to sit down and shut up from the pulpit, and would kick people out during his sermons. Members were not allowed to miss church unless there was a serious medical condition, and if they did miss, they were required to listen to recorded lessons.

The prosecution listed in its notice of extraneous offenses and bad acts several additional teachings and actions of Killingsworth that don’t qualify as a warning sign of a cult but are nonetheless shocking and alarming.

The prosecution accused Killingsworth in its notice of having lunch with a minor child and the child’s parent just days after he was indicted for indecency with multiple children.

According to the state’s notice, Killingsworth would preach in front of children about sexualized topics from the Bible, including sodomy, rape, homosexuality, bestiality, BDSM, and demonic influences during sex. The prosecution also alleged that Killingsworth taught “rape is divine discipline from God.”

The prosecution alleged in its notice that Killingsworth preached that “all homosexuals should be put to death” and that “gay people are demon-possessed.” They also accused Killingsworth of kicking his own daughter out of the church due to her sexual orientation.

The prosecution also accuses Killingsworth of racist teachings. The notice alleged that Killingsworth taught “the Black race is cursed by God” and that “their skin is black because they are cursed.”

According to the state’s notice, Killingsworth allegedly told his congregation not to read certain books or watch certain TV shows and movies. He’s accused of teaching that “Harry Potter would cause children to practice witchcraft” and that “the rhythm of rock music came from African tribes who were worshipping Satan.”

Killingsworth is accused of not allowing women to hold positions of power or be deacons in the church.

The state’s notice alleged Killingsworth told parents to spank their children for any infraction that went against his teaching. They also alleged Killingsworth himself would spank children.

According to the prosecution, Killingsworth allegedly taught that if something bad happened to a member of the congregation, they were being disciplined by God. He’s also accused of dissuading congregants from seeking outside therapy or counseling for mental health medication.

The prosecution also accuses Killingsworth of plagiarizing his sermons and writings. The state also alleged Killingsworth taught lessons by a theologian who was an open antisemite and a supporter of Nazi Germany.

On May 7, 2024, a jury found KIllingsworth guilty and later sentenced him to eighty-four years in prison.

Texoma’s reports:

The same jury of seven men and five women that found a local pastor guilty on six counts of indecency with a child on Tuesday have determined his punishment.

Ronnie Allen Killingsworth, 79, of Wichita Falls, was convicted on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, of all six counts of indecency with a child by contact that occurred between 2000 and 2011 and involved three underaged victims. The jury deliberated for about 45 minutes.

Killingsworth, who faced up to 20 years behind bars and a fine of up to $10,000 on each of the six counts, elected to have the jury set his punishment.

On Wednesday, May 8, 2024, in the 30th District Courtroom, the jury returned a total punishment of 84 years in prison and $60,000 in fines after just under an hour of deliberation.

Judge Meredith Kennedy granted a request by the prosecution for the sentences for counts 1 through 4 to run concurrently, with count 5 running consecutively to the first four counts and count 6 running consecutively to count 5.

The earliest Killingsworth would be released from prison would be after serving 21 years behind bars, at which time he would be 100 years old.

….

Killingsworth’s wife and son took the stand for the defense. Allen Killingsworth, a detective with the Wichita Falls Police Department, told the jury that any lengthy sentence given to his father would be a death sentence due to his age.

During closing arguments, Killingsworth’s defense attorney Chuck Smith apologized to the jury on behalf of Killingsworth’s wife for her “attack” on them during punishment testimony on Tuesday afternoon.

….

Smith requested the jury sentence Killingsworth to the minimum sentence of two years on each count due to his age and health, claiming that anything more than that would mean Killingsworth would likely die in prison, and asking them for community supervision on the two probation-eligible counts.

Assistant prosecutor Dayve Jo Estes with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office argued that probation is for those who admit they need help, and that doesn’t describe Killingsworth.

“He is clothed in his self-righteousness so tight, it’s only matched by his arrogance,” Estes said.

Estes asked for prison sentences on each of the six counts due to the message it would send to both the community as well as Killingsworth’s victims.

“Their lives are irrevocably changed. Why should the defendant not feel the weight of that?” Estes asked. “Your verdict will say to the victims, ‘There is a beacon of hope. There are people who will believe you’.”

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: IFB Church Volunteer Angela Klickner Accused of Sexually Assaulting Minors

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.

Angela Klickner, a volunteer at Landmark Baptist Church in Grand Junction, Colorado, stands accused of sexually assaulting several minors. Landmark is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

Channel 9 reports:

A church volunteer on the Western Slope was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting at least two juveniles.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office said 31-year-old Angela Klickner is facing 13 potential felony charges.

Klickner was arrested on suspicion of the following:

10 counts of sexual assault on a child, position of trust – pattern of abuse

2 counts of obscenity

1 count of criminal extortion

Klickner, who lives in Clifton, was a volunteer at Landmark Baptist Church in Grand Junction from 2022 to 2023, the sheriff’s office said.

Church officials were told about Klickner’s inappropriate contact with the victims and in turn notified the sheriff’s office.

Klickner turned herself in after sheriff’s investigators obtained an arrest warrant.

She’s being held in the Mesa County jail under a $100,000 cash-only bond. Her next court date is scheduled for May 22.

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: Catholic Priest Leo Riley Accused of Sexually Molesting Four Altar Boys in the 1980s

father leo riley

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.

Leo Riley, a Roman Catholic priest, stands accused of sexually molesting four altar boys when he was an associate pastor at Resurrection Parish in Dubuque, Iowa in the 1980s.

Channel 2 reports:

A Port Charlotte priest was arrested Wednesday on multiple counts of capital sexual battery, with allegations connected to his previous tenure in the 1980s as a priest in Iowa.

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office detectives and Dubuque, Iowa, police worked together to arrest Leo P. Riley, 68, at his Port Charlotte home.

According to the Dubuque Police Department, four people reported being sexually abused by Father Riley from 1984 to 1986, when he was the associate pastor of Resurrection Parish in Dubuque. The victims were identified as grade school-aged boys, all serving as altar boys of Resurrection Parish.

The Diocese of Venice told NBC2 that in May of 2023, they learned of sexual misconduct allegations involving Riley. He was immediately put on administrative leave.

CCSO said Riley was last assigned to San Antonio Catholic Church in Port Charlotte. The news caught some parishioners at the church by surprise.

“When we first were told about it, I couldn’t believe it,” parishioner Geraldine Oswald said. “I didn’t know him when he was in Iowa, but when he was here, I just enjoyed him very much.”

Dubuque police arrested Riley for five counts of capital sexual battery within their jurisdiction, CCSO said.

Capital sexual battery refers to an adult over 18 years old sexually battering a child under 12 years old.

Previously, Riley served as a priest at Resurrection Church in Dubuque, Iowa. During the early 2000s, he spent time as a priest at Saint Charles Borromeo in Port Charlotte, St. Peter the Apostle in Naples and Sacred Heart in Punta Gorda.

“Our faith is in Jesus Christ, who founded Catholic Christian Church,” Giacomo Thompson said. “We fully support the police in pursuing their investigation and trial to the full extent of the law. We don’t know any other Catholics that aren’t in agreement with this same position.”

Thompson has been a member of Saint Charles Borromeo for a year and has met Father Riley once.

“We don’t abandon Jesus because of Judas. We will pray for all the victims of abuse, the parishioners and the possible perpetrator,” Thompson said.

CCSO arrested Riley at his home and took him to the Charlotte County Jail overnight.

On Thursday, Riley stood virtually before a judge who is holding him without bond until his hearing on Friday.

NBC2 spoke with Riley’s attorney, who issued the following statement:

“Father Leo Riley has dedicated his life to the Catholic church. He has multiple decades of exemplary and honorable service as a catholic priest. He is baffled by these forty-year-old allegations and vigorously denies any wrongdoing.”

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 Dennis McCranie Charged with Child Sexual Battery

dennis mccranie

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.

Dennis McCranie, a pastor at Lakeside Church in Eastman, Georgia, stands accused of sexual battery involving three children under the age of sixteen.

The Georgia Gazette reports:

The GBI has arrested and charged Dennis McCranie, age 59, of Eastman, GA, with three counts of felony sexual battery. The GBI was requested to assist with this investigation by the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, March 28, 2024.

The preliminary investigation indicates on Sunday, March 24, 2024, McCranie intentionally had inappropriate physical contact with three children under the age of 16 years old.   

On Wednesday, April 3, 2024, McCranie was arrested and booked into the Dodge County Law Enforcement Center.  

Before McCranie worked in Dodge County, he was employed for more than 30 years with the Georgia Department of Corrections. In 2013, he was promoted to Deputy Warden of Security at Wilcox State Prison. McCranie was also a pastor at Lakeside Church in Eastman but “due to the seriousness of these allegations, he has been released of all duties and been asked to refrain from the church campus until further notice”, according to a spokesperson for the church.

Lakeside Church released the following statement:

As many of you may have heard, Dennis McCranie was taken into custody. He was arrested on charges of sexual battery. The charges that have been made against him involve alleged misconduct towards children and/or underage minors. Dennis served as volunteer associate here at Lakeside and due to the seriousness of these allegations he has been released of all duties and been asked to refrain from the church campus until further notice. While the leadership of Lakeside regards these allegations very seriously, we have not, nor will we, prejudge those involved in this matter. We have taken all appropriate steps to protect the vulnerable and traumatized to the greatest extent possible in a responsible, professional, and Biblical manner. We pray for all involved and ask everyone else to kindly do the same.

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: IFB Evangelist Benjamin Garlick Accused of Sex Crimes Against Children, Wife Charged Too

Benjamin-Garlick-Shaantal-Garlick

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 2023, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) evangelist Benjamin Garlick was accused of five counts of Aggravated Rape of a Child, five counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery of a Minor who was under the age of 13, one count of Soliciting Sexual Exploitation of a Minor who was under the age of 13, and one count of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child. Garlick’s wife, Shaantal, was also charged with one count of Facilitation of Aggravated Rape of a Child and one count of Aggravated Child Abuse/ Endangerment to a child age 8 and younger.

WGNS reported:

An evangelist who calls the Blackman area home is facing a slew of charges that revolve around the rape of a child. Benjamin Garlick was taken into custody under a sealed indictment that was handed down by a Rutherford County Grand Jury.

According to court documents, Garlick was charged with 5-counts of Aggravated Rape of a Child, 5-counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery of a Minor who was under the age of 13, 1-count of Soliciting Sexual Exploitation of a Minor who was under the age of 13, and 1-count of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child.

Prior to Garlick’s arrest, he led church services in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and Arkansas, just to name a few. The suspect spoke Spanish fluently and frequented Spanish speaking congregations, events and organizations. Over the past few years, Garlick amassed thousands of views on YouTube and Facebook as a guest pastor, speaking at a variety of churches both large and small throughout the country.

The 32-year-old child rape suspect is currently behind bars in the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center in Murfreesboro. Garlick is being held under a $750-thousand-dollar bond, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The suspect was taken into custody this past Tuesday on September 12, 2023, which was the same day that his wife Shaantal Garlick was arrested.

The courts show that Shaantal Garlick is facing 1-count of Facilitation of Aggravated Rape of a Child and 1-count of Aggravated Child Abuse / Endangerment to a child age 8 and younger.

Shaantal Garlick, who is free after posting a $75-thousand bond, was in court just one month prior to her arrest. Mrs. Garlick filed for an Order of Protection against Benjamin Garlick last month on August 14, 2023. The order was filed in the Rutherford County Chancery Court under the Honorable Howard W. Wilson.

MPD Public Information Officer Larry Flowers told WGNS News on Tuesday the detective over the investigation says the Garlick case remains active and is ongoing. The crimes that Mr. Garlick is accused of committing date back to February of 2021, but again, the investigation is ongoing.

The Messenger added:

Police told WKRN they don’t know how many total victims there are, where they occurred or how Benjamin Garlick knew them. Police say the rapes allegedly happened on Feb. 13, 2021, and that the case is still under investigation.

The pastor was indicted Sept. 12 and booked into the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center, where he still remains. His was booked into jail and released on a $75,000 bond two days later.

One pastor in Murfreesboro told WKRN that he has known Garlick since he was a child, and called him a father with a “role model” family.

The preacher with the “perfect” family with the “perfect” wife, yet both of them are charged with sex crimes. Hmm . . .

benjamin garlick

The Roys Report added:

According to multiple reports, the couple has ministered as itinerant Christian evangelists with their six children. In recent years, the Garlicks have led church services in multiple states including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, and their home state of Tennessee. 

Authorities arrested Benjamin Garlick on Sept. 12 at his residence in Blackman, a suburb of Murfreesboro. Garlick remains in custody at Rutherford County Adult Detention Center on a $750,000 bond. 

Shaantal Garlick was also arrested on Sept 12. She bonded out on Sept. 15, paying $75,000 in fees. The charges against both Garlicks stem from actions that were alleged to have occurred on Feb. 13, 2021. 

The Garlicks have been supported in their itinerant ministry by First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, a flagship church of the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. As of publication time, the couple was still listed on the church’s website as church-supported missionaries.

Last month, a grand jury indicted the Garlicks on additional charges.

Hoodline reports:

Murfreesboro police are doubling down on their call for potential victims to speak up in the case against a traveling pastor and his wife, both facing serious child rape charges. Benjamin Sean Garlick, 32, a minister known for preaching across the nation, particularly within the Hispanic community, and his wife, Shaantal, 30, are presently entangled in a legal maelstrom following a spate of charges that have come to light surrounding their alleged sexual abuse of minors.

According to WSMV, Benjamin Garlick was slammed with a litany of charges in September but now faces additional ones after a Rutherford County Grand Jury handed down a new indictment in March. The new charges include seven counts of aggravated rape of a child, six counts of aggravated sexual battery, along with two counts each of sexual exploitation of a minor and violation of the child protection act.

His spouse, Shaantal, also faces updated charges. As reported by FOX17, she has been reindicted on two counts each of facilitation of aggravated rape of a child and aggravated child neglect. Shaantal made bond last year but found herself under arrest again last month after the new indictment was served.

….

Murfreesboro police have been highlighting the urgency for any additional victims to come forward, particularly those from the Hispanic community who may have crossed paths with the Garlicks in their nationwide ministry.

For those potentially affected, the call is not merely an announcement—it is a beacon, a chance to speak, to be heard, and to potentially find a semblance of justice in a situation where power and trust have been so flagrantly exploited. The Garlicks’ travel across this country was not, as it seems, a mission of faith healing and community building, but perhaps one that left behind a darker, indelible mark on the lives of the vulnerable.

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: Former Evangelical Youth Pastor Hipolito Gomez-Perdomo Accused of Sexually Assaulting Church Girls

Hipolito Gomez-Perdomo

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.

Hipolito Gomez-Perdomo, formerly a youth pastor at Vida Abundante Church in Fort Collins, Colorado, stands accused of sexually assaulting multiple church girls over the past three decades.

Fox-31 reports:

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office arrested a former youth pastor in March on charges of sexually assaulting multiple children over the course of three decades.

The former youth pastor has been identified as Hipolito Gomez-Perdomo, 65, of Fort Collins. He was involved with the Vida Abundante church in northern Fort Collins, where he served as a youth pastor. Before that, Gomez-Perdomo lived in Fort Morgan and Houston.

Because of his position and the pattern reported by several victims, police are concerned that there may be additional victims who have yet to come forward.

….

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office began investigating after a report was made in early 2023. A teenage victim identified Gomez-Perdomo and told police that he sexually assaulted her in the early 2000s when she was a child. LCSO said she told law enforcement that she did not report the assault because she was afraid of the repercussions.

She came forward, the sheriff’s office said, because she learned other teenagers had allegedly experienced similar abuse by Gomez-Perdomo.

The sheriff’s office investigators found Gomez-Perdomo was reported for sexual assault in 2019 by a different victim, but the district attorney’s office declined to file charges then. Gomez-Perdomo is alleged to have left the Vida Abundante church after these allegations.

Investigators said the 2019 case was reopened in conjunction with the newer allegations.

During this, another victim came forward, according to the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. She described a similar pattern of abuse during the late 1990s that occurred when she was a young child. She told investigators that Gomez-Perdomo met her family through church and after he was a trusted family friend he assaulted her.

Gomez-Perdomo was arrested in March on five counts of sexual assault on a child from a person in a position of trust and one count of sexual assault on a child. He was booked into the Larimer County Jail and a judge issued a $200,000 cash or surety bond. Additional charges are pending.

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 Volunteer Brandon Saylor Sentenced to 5-15 Years for Sexual Misconduct with Children

brandon saylor

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.

Earlier this year, Brandon Saylor, a volunteer at Living Word Church in Midland, Michigan, pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with three children under 13. Living Word is operated by Mark Barclay Ministries.

Our Midland reports:

A Midland man pleaded guilty Thursday to three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with three children under 13, admitting he did it for his own sexual gratification between 2010 and 2023.

A Midland man pleaded guilty Thursday to three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with three children under 13, admitting he did it for his own sexual gratification between 2010 and 2023.

Prior to accepting Saylor’s plea, Midland County Circuit Court Judge Michael Beale told Saylor he was placing a minimum sentence of 60 months in prison and up to 15 years before asking him if he still wanted to plead to the crimes.

Saylor admitted to the judge he touched the children’s genitals while they were either clothed or unclothed, in all three cases. One of the victims was 5 years old when the first sexual conduct occurred. Saylor also said he was guilty of touching a fourth child’s genitals, who wasn’t among those he was charged for.

Midland County Assistant Prosecutor Courtney Driscoll said she was satisfied with Saylor’s admission of guilt, adding that he admitted responsibility for three of the highest charges. The crimes occurred when the victims were under 13 and Saylor was older than 17. Saylor is required to wear a lifetime GPS tether upon his prison release.

….

According to a Freedom of Information Act request, two other victims came forward with complaints from about 20 years ago. Driscoll said charges were not levied against Saylor in these cases because the statue of limitations had expired.

Midland County Sheriff Myron Greene said the investigation of Saylor in the present cases stemmed from a delayed report. The sheriff said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services referred the report to his office.

….

Saylor is the second person associated with Living Word Church to be charged with sex crimes. The Rev. James Randolph, 57, was arrested Nov. 28 and is charged with seven felonies. His charges are two counts of first-degree CSC involving a relationship; one second-degree CSC with a child under 13 while Randolph was older than 17; two counts of second-degree CSC involving a relationship; second-degree CSC or subsequent offense; and one count accosting children for immoral purposes for crimes allegedly occurring in 2011.

Recently, Saylor was sentenced to five-fifteen years in prison for his crimes.

ABC-12 reports:

A Midland man who was a Living Word Church volunteer will spend five to 15 years in prison for criminal sexual conduct.

Midland County Circuit Court Judge Michael Beale sentenced Brandon Saylor for sex crimes between 2010 and 2023.

Saylor took a plea deal on Jan. 5.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with three children under the age of 13. Six of the charges were dismissed.

He was originally charged with six counts of criminal sexual conduct and three counts of accosting children for immoral purposes.

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: Southern Baptist Pastor Dean Smith Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Sex Crimes Against Minor Girls

pastor dean smith

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 2023, Dean Smith, pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church in Lame Deer, Montana, was accused of sexually assaulting at least four girls aged twelve and younger on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. Morning Star Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

The United States Attorney’s Office: District of Montana released the following statement:

A Lame Deer pastor appeared on a summons for arraignment today on sexual abuse charges alleged to have occurred on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Dean Alan Smith, 66, a pastor, pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with one count of aggravated sexual abuse, one count of abusive sexual contact and three counts of abusive sexual contact by force and of a child. If convicted of the most serious crime, Smith faces a maximum of life in prison, a $250,000 fine and not less than five years of supervised release.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan presided. Judge Cavan continued Smith’s release with conditions pending further proceedings.

An indictment, filed on Dec. 9, alleges that between 2017 and 2019 near Lame Deer, on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Smith knowingly caused a person, identified as Jane Doe 1, to engage in a sexual act by using force and that Smith knowing caused Jane Doe 1 to engage in sexual contact by using force. The indictment further alleges that between 2017 and 2019, Smith knowingly caused a person, identified as Jane Doe 2, who had not attained the age of 12, to engage in sexual contact by force. In addition, the indictment alleges that between 2019 and 2020, Smith knowingly caused persons, identified as Jane Doe 3 and Jane Doe 4, both who had not attained the age of 12, to engage in sexual contact by force.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the FBI.

Native Sun News Today added:

In January 3, 2023, Dean Alan Smith, pastor of over twenty years at the Morning Star Baptist Church in Lame Deer, Montana, pled not guilty to federal charges filed the month before.

According to local media, Smith, age 66 was charged with sexually abusing four girls on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation between 2017 and 2019. Questions remain if there are other victims, as Smith served as a pastor on the reservation for years. That branch of the Baptist Church once had a private school for elementary students on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

A local support group of Northern Cheyenne advocates is asking other possible victims to come forward under the guidance of tribal members Hadley Shoulderblade and Diane Spotted Elk. “We demand justice for the victims and are trying to build funds for compensation,” these leaders recently posted on Facebook.

The Morning Star Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist Congregation, sits on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Executive Director of that congregation said they have been in contact with the local church.

“One member of the church has been very open about what they are dealing with. I have let them know we are here to help the girls who have made these claims find the way to healing themselves,” said Montana Baptist Convention Executive Director Barrett Duke.

“The harder area is not in our cities but in the rural areas,” Duke Said. “They think they know the person. They are a little slower, I think, to adopt some of the processes to identify potential predators.”

Tribal leaders told Smith he is no longer welcome on the Reservation.  The local Morning Star Church held a meeting to that same effect, issuing a public statement via Facebook: “The Church is a body of people, not to be judged by the actions of one. We will continue our mission, though now it will be harder.”

The United Ministerial Association of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation also met and demanded Pastor Smith’s resignation. “This is very unfortunate and not in keeping with our mission,” they told the Northern Cheyenne community in a written statement.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is prosecuting the case while Smith remains free on bond with conditions including his not being allowed around children. According to local sources, Smith has left the Reservation, his whereabouts not certain. If found guilty Smith could face life imprisonment, at $500,000 fine and registered as a life-long sexual offender.

According to a Facebook post by Josh Kolojeski:

I was the Site Director of the Northern Cheyenne Youthworks site in Lame Deer in 2016. In the final two weeks of the summer, three of my female staff members were informed by a member of the community that Dean Smith “took (a child’s) virginity,” and were advised by another member of the community to not be alone with Dean and to not let kids near him because he touches them.

I was off-site at a funeral for that day and that weekend, so my Area Director was there as the acting Site Director. The staff members verbally told him what they were told and reported it to the Boys and Girls Club that we were partnering with. When I returned to site on Sunday, they also reported it to me and I reported it again to my Area Director.

On one hand, we didn’t want to ruin Dean’s reputation if the information was simply unsubstantiated rumors. On the other hand, we wanted to make sure we were also reporting this information to people better equipped to investigate. In hindsight, we should have also reported it to the BIA, although we later learned that Dean had already been reported by someone in the community before our summer began. In order to promote a culture of safety, I told the staff members they didn’t have to attend his church for the final two Sunday’s of the summer, and I also went on the prayer walk that Dean led with the high school students each week, because the staff member that typically attended the prayer walk with Dean and the students was no longer comfortable doing it, understandably.

I also wanted to make sure full-time staff at Youthworks knew about the information that was reported to us so that they could ask more questions and re-evaluate whether or not to partner with Dean for 2017 and beyond. As I mentioned before, three members of the staff and I all reported the information to our Area Director, who was also the full-time Area Director for that site among others at the time. Additionally, I could be mistaken, but I’m 95% sure if you check my end of summer Site Director paperwork from 2016, you will see I made mention of Youthworks possibly reconsidering it’s relationship with Dean. In a section asking about anything that needed to be looked in on for future summers, I believe I said something along the lines of “three of my staff members heard rumors in the community about Pastor Dean that we reported to our Area Director, so Youthworks may want to look further into those rumors before partnering with him again in 2017.”

With that information, my questions are:

1. Did Youthworks take any action steps based on the reports made by the 2016 Site Staff?

2. If so, what action steps were taken and what information was considered when the decision was made to continue partnering with Dean in 2017, 2018, and 2019?

I understand that conducting a deep investigation is outside the purview of Youthworks, and I also know that the full-time staff that work and have worked at Youthworks are tremendous people and whatever was done or not done was obviously not out of malicious intent. But I’d also like to know what, if anything, informed Youthworks’ decision to keep sending staff and high school youth group students his way in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

I’d also like to add that one of the three aforementioned staff members has lived in or near Lame Deer since her summer with Youthworks. Another one of those staff members worked for Youthworks in Lame Deer again in 2017. They reported more information they learned to the 2016 Area Director, their 2017 Site Director, and their 2017 Area Director, who were all subsequently told that nothing could be done based off rumors. However, in July 16th, 2020, Youthworks posted a video of Pastor Dean talking about the Northern Cheyenne reservation. When two of the teammates saw this video, they emailed Youthworks and again reported the allegations that had been reported to them and told them that they were shocked to see the video of Dean being shared by Youthworks (I don’t know if it was also produced and created by Youthworks). In this case, Youthworks did respond directly to the two staff members, and the higher up’s had a. video call with the pair to discuss the allegations. Youthworks also deleted the video and contacted authorities, sounding the alarm either to the FBI directly or to an entity that ran it up the ladder to the point that it reached the FBI, and the former site staff was contacted by the FBI.

Perhaps an investigation was already ongoing, or perhaps Youthworks 2020 report to authorities sparked the investigation. In either case, that report from Youthworks to authorities would have been beneficial in 2016. If an investigation was already ongoing, law enforcement could have informed Youthworks that there was an active investigation and that it might be in their best interest to stop their partnership with Dean. If the report is what sparked the investigation, then the investigation could have been started four years earlier.

In those four years, Dean was allowed to continue to work with Youthworks staff and participants, continue to foster children (including, in 2017, four girls and one boy that spent a lot of time at our housing site and that the Youthworks staff in 2016 had really bonded with), and he was able to continue to run his Vacation Bible School.

I loved each of my four summers with Youthworks, and I don’t regret my experiences. Working with Youthworks truly had and still has a positive influence in my life and on my spiritual journey, and it matured me in positive ways. I also know that there was probably more I could have done during our final two weeks in Lame Deer as well. But I also think this statement leaves out key information of initial reports being made to Youthworks as early as 2016, and whether it was through miscommunication up the ladder or through disbelief, I think Youthworks dropped the ball in this instance.

Recently, Smith was found guilty and sentenced to thirty years in prison. He will likely die behind bars.

The Billings Gazette reports:

A former Lame Deer pastor was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in federal prison for molesting foster children under his care. 

Dean Alan Smith, 67, served as the head of Morning Start Baptist Church on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation for just over two decades until his indictment in U.S. District Court on multiple counts of sex abuse. The foster children staying at his home came from the reservation, and the testimony of three children whom he abused led to his conviction late last year.

….

Smith, who previously lived in Florida, came to Montana with his family in 2001. Although he attended church regularly before the move, Smith testified during his trial, he became the pastor at Morning Star Baptist Church despite having no seminary training. As pastor, he hosted prayer walks, family nights and sobriety programs at the church. He also allowed children on the reservation to stay at his home. Some were the friends of his children. Others came to his house when they had nowhere else to stay, according to court testimony.

….

In 2017, Smith and his wife became licensed foster parents. The process consisted of them undergoing a background check, Smith and his wife testified, and filing the required paperwork. Neither of them received training for foster care from state or tribal officials.

….

Starting when Smith became a foster parent in 2017, and over the next three years, he molested three girls who were staying at his home. As of Smith’s sentencing, all three were still under the age of 18. The girls became his foster children because social workers couldn’t find any other households on the reservation safe enough for them to stay, Smith testified during his trial.

The federal indictment against Smith came in December 2022 following an investigation on the part of the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Within a month of pleading not guilty to multiple sex crimes, the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council approved a measure to ban Smith from the reservation.

Smith’s trial spanned five days in December 2023. During which, three girls described their abuse in explicit detail. One of the survivors testified that when she was around 10 years old, she was lying on a couch at “Pastor Dean’s” to sleep when she got up to comfort another child who was having a nightmare. Both children got into bed with Smith, where he molested the 10-year-old.

Following closing arguments from federal prosecutors and attorneys representing Smith, the jury was deadlocked after several hours of deliberations. Judge Susan P. Watters, who presided over the trial, gave the deadlocked jury a recess that lasted from a Friday night to Monday morning. That Monday, the jury convicted Smith on counts of aggravated sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact by force and two counts of abusive sexual contact by force and of a child. He has remained in custody since.

“Even in the eyes of the verdict,” Assistant Federal Defender Evangelo Arvanetes said in court Wednesday, Smith maintained his innocence. Arvanetes, who represented Smith, argued for a five-year prison sentence. Smith loved and supported the Northern Cheyenne community Arvanetes said, as seen through his counseling and volunteer work on the reservation. Even a 20-year sentence in prison would likely mean a life sentence for the 67-year-old Smith, Arvanetes argued.

When given a chance to speak, Smith spent nearly 20 minutes listing his contributions to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, among them volunteering for the local fire department and providing counseling for men through his ministry. Smith also reiterated his innocence.

The question of Smith’s guilt, Judge Watters said before issuing her sentence, has already been answered. The jury heard from Smith and the three girls he abused, and ultimately determined their accounts were credible, she said.

“Your home was supposed to be a safe place for them,” Watters said. “They were extremely vulnerable girls. They were very young and they put their trust in you. And you violated that trust.”

Along with the 30-year sentence, Watters also required that Smith undergo sex offender treatment while in prison. Following his release, he will remain under federal supervision for the rest of his life.

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 Daniel Harris Sentenced to Eighteen Years in Prison for Sex Crimes Against Children

pastor Daniel Harris

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.

Daniel Harris, pastor of Olive Branch Christian Church in Olive Branch, Mississippi, recently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eighteen years in prison for sex crimes against children.

DeSoto County News reports:

DeSoto County District Attorney Matthew Barton has announced that former Mississippi pastor and educator Daniel Harris has pleaded guilty to charges relating to sex crimes against children as far back as 2015.

He was ordered to serve 18 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections without the possibility of parole or early release. In addition to his probation and jail sentence, Harris will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his adult life and no longer serve as an educator.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, the investigation revealed that between 2015 and 2018, Harris continuously molested teenagers while under his care as a tutor, pastor, and authority figure.

A victim of Harris’ actions came forward after revealing the incident that took place during his childhood to another family member. The initial victim’s testimony then helped other victims come forward. Harris was arrested on May 4, 2023.

“Instead of being a pastor and educator, Harris used his position of trust to violate the innocence of children to fulfill his reprehensible desires,” Barton said. “The plea will ensure that other children will be shielded from this child predator while sparing a lengthy court process for the victims who endured horrendous abuse at the hands of Daniel Harris. People like this have no place in society and my office will continue to partner with federal, local, and state law enforcement to ensure nefarious individuals like this are behind bars and their victims receive justice.”

If you or someone you know has been a victim of child abuse, please call your local law enforcement agency to report the incident.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Ben Weathers, with investigative assistance from Lt. Ashley Holladay of the Olive Branch Police Department and criminal investigators from the District Attorney’s Office.

At the time of his arrest, Harris was listed as a pastor at Olive Branch Christian Church. The church’s website at the time said he founded the Kaimen Center, teaching arts, athletics and academics to children and adults with disabilities.

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 David Helbling Accused of Sexually Assaulting a Minor

pastor david helbling

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.

David Helbling, a pastor at The Blessing Center First Assembly of God in Moreno Valley, California, stands accused of sexually assaulting a minor.

Audacy reports:

A 78-year-old pastor accused of sexually assaulting a young girl pleaded not guilty Friday to multiple felony charges.

David Lee Helbling of Moreno Valley was arrested last month following a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigation.

Helbling is charged with oral copulation of a child under 10 years old, abduction of a minor, forcible lewd acts on a child, perpetrating three or more sexual acts on a minor and a sentence-enhancing allegation of bodily injury during a sexual assault.

The defendant was arraigned before Superior Court Judge Gail O’Rane, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for April 9 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.

Helbling is being held on $2 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Martinez, deputies were informed at the end of January of an alleged attack on the victim, identified in court documents only as “E.A.,” in the 23000 block of Hemlock Avenue, near Pigeon Pass Road.

The ensuing investigation led to the identification of Helbling, a local minister, as the alleged perpetrator.

Martinez said a search warrant was obtained and served at the defendant’s residence, where “evidence related to the crime was collected, and Helbling was taken into custody without incident.”

Court papers indicated the defendant committed the alleged offenses all on the same day — Jan. 30.

“It is alleged that in connection with the commission of the offenses, Helbling … kidnapped the victim, and the movement of the victim substantially increased the risk of harm,” according to the criminal complaint. “The defendant resided in the same home, and (he) had recurring access (to her) with the intent of arousing, appealing to and gratifying (his) lust, passions and sexual desires.”

No other details were disclosed, including the house of worship where Helbling has presided.

The charges carry a potential maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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