Sunday, June 26, 2005


Weekly church-related crime update, June 20 - 24, 2005

  • On Monday, a Lawrence, Kansas jury convicted Martin K. Miller, 46, a youth group leader and board member at Victory Bible Church, of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Kansas University librarian Mary E. Miller. Says the Lawrence Journal World:

    The case included testimony about Martin Miller’s four-year extramarital affair, pornography addiction, and desire to pursue more sexual relationships — all of which stood in contrast to his leadership roles at his church and his children’s Christian school... Prosecutor Jones said in his closing argument that divorce wasn’t an option because Miller stood to lose his roles as a youth-group leader at church and a board member for Veritas Christian School. “Murder?... Of course he knew it was a sin,” Jones said. “But that was supposed to be a private sin. No one was supposed to know about that one.”

  • On Tuesday, a Mesa, Arizona Dennis Montoya, a minister at Word of Grace Church, appeared in court on two child molestation charges. The victim was reportedly an eight-year-old girl. Police said Montoya confessed and they fear there are more victims.

  • A Rumson, New Jersey grand jury indicted Rev. Joseph W. Hughes, the pastor of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, with charges related to the theft of $2 million from his parish. Hughes, who has a "fondness for expensive cars, upscale restaurants and Caribbean vacations," according to the Asbury Park Press, also bought a $47,000 BMW, jewelry and assorted household appliances for a church handyman named David Rogers who, it appears, is somehow related to Hughes. The moral bearings of the church community were perhaps revealed when a group of wealthy parishoners offered to repay the stolen $2,034,428 if prosecutors agreed not to send Hughes to jail. Officials rejected the deal, noting that "[t]his was money from fund-raisers and meant for charity. There are very few instances where we would even consider not seeking jail time for this kind of theft, and this is certainly not one of them."

  • In Philadelphia, Mississippi, Edgar Ray Killen, a soft-spoken "country preacher" was convicted on manslaughter charges for the so-called "Mississippi Burning" killing of three civil rights workers in 1964. Killen had previously been found not guilty of violating civil rights laws in a federal court; a lone holdout juror said she "could not convict a preacher."

  • On Tuesday, Norman Pugh, a youth minister at Arnoldsville Baptist Church near Winterville, Georgia, was arrested on child molestation charges involving a 14-year-old girl who had spent the night at his house.

  • In Roseboro, North Carolina, Terrance Howard, a 19-year-old muscian at Holy Tabernacle Church, was charged with statutory rape of a girl between the ages of 13 and 15.

  • On Wednesday, a lawsuit was filed against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, Archbishop Raymond Burke and Thomas Cooper, a priest. An unnamed man alleges in the suit that when he was 12 or 13 years old he was molested by Cooper. "The suit says Cooper performed oral sex on the boy at least three times at Cooper's "clubhouse" on the banks of a river somewhere in Missouri," reported the St. Louis Dispatch.

  • Thursday saw the beginning of testimony in the sexual assault trial of John A. Salazarm, a Catholic priest at Church of the Holy Spirit in Tulia, Texas. Says the Houston Chronicle:

    In the late 1980s, Salazar pleaded guilty to charges of molesting two boys in Los Angeles. He served more than two years in prison and was released to a treatment program for sex offenders before coming to the Amarillo diocese in 1991.

    But, remarkably, the church continued to re-assign Salazarm to various rural parishes throughout Texas, and didn't defrock him unitl 2004, after thousands of lawsuits against the church prompted a "zero tolerance" policy. By that time, Salazarm had allegedly attacked again, this time molesting a 18-year-old man he had gotten drunk with at a wedding.

  • In Mobile, Alabama, Thomas Anthony Crandall, a former Catholic priest already on probation for a drug conviction, was arrested on child pornography charges.

  • In Chattanooga, Edward Hughes Monday, 61 and pastor of Bethlehem Evangelistic Mission Church, was arrested for rape and sexual battery in a case involving a teenage boy. A neighbor to the church wasn't surprised: "I know several people that has said things about him, you know trying to mess with 'em," she said.

  • The Archdiocese of Philadelphia defrocked seven priests. "The dismissals," noted the Philadelphia Inquirer,

    were announced in a spare notice on Page 8 of the archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Standard and Times... While the published notice began with the words, "in the spirit of transparency," archdiocesan officials provided no details of the abuse. The announcement did not use the word sexual in describing the accusations, saying only that the priests were defrocked for "misconduct involving minors."...

    The Inquirer, however, published details of the crimes of the seven men.

  • On Friday, Charles Dwight Smith Jr., the minister youth group leader at North Penn Church of Christ in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, was charged with "deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor, endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors and indecent assault" for multiple encounters with two 15-year-old girls at his church, his home, and a church school.

  • In Lamite, Louisiana, grand jury charges were filed against seven people associated with Hosanna Church, including the minister and a sheriff's deputy, for "aggravated rape in a case that has included accusations that children and animals were sexually abused." (Backgound links found here.)

  • Ohio Congressman Steven LaTourette announced he would meet with citizens concerned about Apostolic Faith Church. Explained WEWS News:

    The church was drawn into the investigation after the death of 43-year-old Carolyn Clark. After her death, news spread about legal papers Carolyn Clark filed in a custody dispute she won a few days before she died, accusing leaders of the couple's church of sexual and physical abuse against members, including children.

  • In Thomasville, Georgia, Roderick Suber, 25 and youth minister at Faith Horizons Ministries, was sentenced to four years in prison for statutory rape of a 16-year-old girl when she stayed at his house overnight, and on a church camping trip. When Suber was arrested, Jeff Christopher, pastor at the church and Suber's father-in-law, said Suber would remain as youth minister. Suber, incidently, wore a tie with the Lord’s Prayer on it to court.

  • In Philadelphia, Otis Joseph, choir director at West Oak Lane Church of God, was found guilty of raping two girls. One girl was raped from the time she was 11-years-old until she reported the attacks at age 15. The other was raped at age 14. Joseph has yet to face unrelated charges that he molested three sisters and had a relationship with a 15-year-old girl.

  • See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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