SNAP: Two preachers did not report suspected child abuse
KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |
ODESSA - Don and Gina Haislett, the pastor and co-pastor of Life Church in Odessa, were arrested Tuesday and charged with failure to report child abuse, a Class A Misdemeanor.
According to Odessa Police, the Haisletts conducted their own investigation into a sexual relationship he had with one victim and inappropriate text messages he allegedly sent others.The pastors did this for three weeks without contacting officials, even after they removed De Los Santos from his youth minister duties."This goes on more than people realize," said Cpl. Steve LeSueur, the Odessa Police spokesman."And it doesn't just involve churches. It involves day cares [and] schools. If anyone is aware that there is child abuse taking place, they need to report it immediately to police. It's a crime if you don't report child abuse. It's a crime if you don't report a felony"
The Wartburg Watch and FBC Jax Watchdogs have both covered this story.
I did an interview about this story with the Odessa American:
Amy Smith, spokesperson for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, said that internal investigations at churches regarding child abuse is a common practice.
“These types of crimes unfortunately are commonly handled by the church internally just like this church did,” Smith said. “That has the effect to continue to endanger more children. Typically they try to handle it internally thinking they are doing the best thing for the church but they are enabling that person to continue abusing children.”
“We really are glad and thankful for the police department there who are prosecuting this crime,” Smith said. “I think it will do a lot to protect kids and send a clear message to churches or other organizations who may hear an allegation of abuse and they will think twice about handling it on their own.”
Prestonwood Baptist Church and Morrison Heights Baptist Church pastors, when faced with credible allegations of child sex abuse by former music minister and Clinton High School choir teacher John Langworthy, also conducted their own internal investigations, even seeking out and speaking with victims. They were mandated to report these allegations of abuse. They broke the law and have endangered more kids by failing to report these felonies.
In 1989, when Prestonwood then youth pastor Neal Jeffrey (now an executive staff minister) and head pastor Jack Graham discovered victims of child sex abuse by Langworthy in the church, they involved church lawyers, according to an email from Neal Jeffrey. One victim recalls a meeting with Prestonwood church lawyers who took statements from him and other alleged victims. To my knowledge, they have yet to make the mandated call to police to report these allegations of child sex crimes, though, in an email to me, executive pastor Mike Buster said that Prestonwood would "cooperate fully with law enforcement agencies concerning this matter."
My dad, a former Prestonwood deacon, states that "the attorneys for the church handled it. Randy Addison was the attorney. He handled the staff. Bill Taylor was the administrative minister."
In newly published emails, Morrison Heights Baptist Church pastor and ERLC Leadership Council member Greg Belser, reveals to me and one of Langworthy's victims, that he and the church elders were conducting their own investigation into these alleged child sex crimes, without reporting this to law enforcement. One of the church elders who participated in the internal church investigation and contacted me and spoke to media on behalf of the church, is Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn. Greg Belser, going so far as to solicit information on additional victims in order to speak with them, told a victim:
As for your continued search for victims, that would be an important help to us. John is insistent that you will find none, other than just the crude and vulgar behavior. If you do find someone, we would want to talk firsthand with them and in complete confidence.
Greg Belser revealed in an email to me in February 2011 that he and the elders were conducting their own investigation that would take several weeks and that they would "formulate a long-term action plan, based on our findings." I received a call from Belser in April 2011, after they had conducted their own investigation without law enforcement, and he said that they had come to the decision to keep Langworthy on staff at Morrison Heights.
In August 2011, Langworthy confessed publicly in a morning worship service at Morrison Heights. He was arrested in September 2011, indicted, and pleaded guilty on January 22, 2013 in Jackson, Mississippi:
Langworthy's wife, Kathy Langworthy, remains on the music staff at Morrison Heights Baptist Church.Langworthy, 50, was accused of molesting five boys between the ages of 6 and 13 between 1980 and 1984. The incidents happened while Langworthy was babysitting each of the children at his sister's home in Jackson and at his dorm room at Mississippi College, according to the indictments.Two of the victims testified during Tuesday's hearing."I want you to know I do not hate you. I have forgiven you. In fact, my heart is sad for you in many ways," said one of the victims.The victims said Langworthy used his position and influence in the church to gain access to them."These aren't isolated incidents. This is a manipulative pattern. It's sick and depraved," one of the victims testified.The victims, now grown men, said they wanted Langworthy to know how his actions impacted their lives."You have caused more pain and agony in my family than any situation outside of my dad passing away this year," one of the victims told Langworthy from the witness stand.
Although Langworthy was sentenced to 50 years in prison, all of it was suspended, so he is not in prison. As far I know, he is still employed at a pharmacy in Clinton, Mississippi.
We hope that any others who have suffered, seen or suspected child sex abuse by Langworthy, in Texas, Mississippi or elsewhere, will call police, expose wrongdoers, protect kids and start healing. Silence only helps predators.
Prestonwood Baptist Church and the Cone of Silence
The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids.