Sex abuse claims stem from Tulsa megachurch

13-year-old girl among reported victims of assault

Topics: Religion, Sexual abuse, Tulsa, Megachurch, Oklahoma,

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A 17,000-member megachurch deep in Oklahoma’s Bible Belt has been rattled by allegations that five employees waited two weeks to report the rape of a 13-year-old girl in a campus stairwell, allegedly by a church worker.

Tulsa police say the girl is among at least three victims of alleged sex crimes by two former employees of Victory Christian Center who face criminal charges. A child crimes investigator says more victims could surface as police continue to investigate.

Authorities, however, fear some parishioners in the large, tight-knit south Tulsa congregation may choose to pray about the allegations rather than provide concrete evidence.

Police said this week that the worldwide ministry’s pastor and co-founder, Sharon Daugherty, whose daily broadcasts are beamed via satellite to more than 200 countries, knew about the abuse allegations, but trusted ministry employees to follow in-house policies on reporting such incidents.

Former church employee Chris Denman, 20, was arrested Sept. 5 for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl in a stairwell before a church service on Aug. 13. He also is charged with molesting a 15-year-old girl sometime between Aug. 13 and Aug. 17. He has pleaded not guilty and faces an Oct. 11 preliminary hearing, court records show.

Another ex-employee, 23-year-old Israel Shalom Castillo was arrested Thursday morning after turning himself in at the Tulsa jail. He is charged with making a lewd proposal to a child and using a computer to commit a sex crime.

Prosecutors this week also charged five church employees — including Daugherty’s son and daughter-in-law, who are both youth pastors — for failing to report the alleged assault between Aug. 15 and Aug. 30. John Daugherty, Charica Daugherty, Paul Willemstein, Anna George and Harold “Frank” Sullivan each face one misdemeanor count of failing to report child abuse and are due to be arraigned Wednesday in Tulsa County District Court.

Tulsa attorney Jason Robertson, who is representing the five employees, did not return a phone message seeking comment Thursday afternoon. An assistant in his firm indicated he was out of town.

The ministry — founded in 1981 by Sharon and the late Billy Joe Daugherty and shaped in a similar mold to Tulsa televangelist Oral Roberts’ charismatic Christian ministries — issued statements this week accepting responsibility for the lapse in reporting. A request to interview Daugherty was declined by a public relations firm hired by Victory Christian Center.



In a statement to The Associated Press issued Wednesday, the church said its employees failed to follow a written policy requiring any allegation of abuse to be reported by employees to the state’s Department of Human Services, and internally within one hour to their department head and the director of human resources.

The church explained that staff in the ministry’s youth department learned of the allegations and spent about a week checking it out before reporting it to supervisors and human resources. Once the complaint reached HR, “that department did not follow its own reporting policy,” the ministry admitted in the statement.

It was unclear from the ministry statement which of the allegations the youth department checked into on its own.

Sullivan, the HR director, fired the two men Aug. 24, and then left a message with a member of the church who works with an anti-child trafficking organization to seek advice on whom to contact. Sullivan was advised to call police on Aug. 27. The ministry said Sullivan exchanged voicemails with an officer until Aug. 30, when they finally connected and the officer told Sullivan to dial 911, which he did that day.

“We deeply regret that our employees did not report these incidents to authorities within the proper amount of time. This failure within our organization weighs heavily on us, because our purpose is to help people and minister to their needs,” the church said in the statement to AP. “Our internal response was unacceptable, and we are taking the proper steps to correct it.”

The five employees charged with failure to report abuse have been suspended by the ministry while it decides disciplinary action, the organization said.

Police Det. Cpl. Greg Smith, who works in the child crisis unit, said the ministry has fully cooperated with investigators since the alleged abuse was reported.

“There was a couple of weeks in which they were either unsure of what to do or didn’t do it, or who knows what,” he said. “There was a couple weeks where we probably lost some evidence.”

Smith said police are pursuing cases involving at least two more victims and another suspect. In one of the cases, police have failed to connect with the accuser. In the other, the victim’s parents are not cooperating, Smith said,

“They made a comment that the church is handling the situation and they’re going to continue to pray about it,” Smith said Thursday. “We’re still hoping to convince them to go forward with it.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>