Memories Don't Know Time: Shining the Light on Child Sexual Abuse

 About a year ago I decided speak out and not leave it up to someone else to warn about my former youth music minister John Langworthy, at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, I was someone else. I had to get someone to listen, anyone who could shine the light of truth on this admitted pedophile. I began to search online for Langworthy and found him working at a church and public high school in Clinton, MS. As soon as I learned he was working in a school, I called the superintendent,  Dr. Phil Burchfield. The next day I emailed him and received this reply:        

          Sent: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 1:38 PM
Subject: Re: Kanakuk case in Missouri
I spoke with Sherry this morning.... I will be contacting Prestonwood Baptist Church soon.
Dr. Burchfield mentions speaking to Sherry, a friend of mine who is a former Dallas County probation officer who worked with sex offenders. Here is the story of the sentencing of Pete Newman in Missouri that I referenced in my email to Dr. Burchfield as a catalyst for speaking out about John Langworthy.

In November 2010, I emailed Neal Jeffrey, an associate pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. Neal was the youth minister at the time of Langworthy's firing in 1989 due to credible allegations of sexual abuse by several boys. I received this reply:

Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 12:41 PM
Subject: your email

Amy, here is another attempt to answer your email, it has never gone through for some reason,
Here is what I wrote,
I sent a reply last Sunday, but it must not have gone through, it kept coming up with an “error” sign, but I am pretty lame when it comes to computers,
Anyway, here is another try,
Dr. Burchfield, the Superintendent did call me and we had a pretty frank discussion of John, and his time here. He said that he was going to call John in and have a discussion with him about all this stuff. I also called our attorneys, who were involved in all of this back then, and they were going to discuss what we need to do, and probably call Dr. Burchfield, etc, The attorney guys did not remember all of the specifics of the case, so they were going to go back into their notes etc, and see what needs to be done. I have not heard back from any of them, so I will make an attempt to see where all of that is.
I will let you know, blessings to you all,
Neal Jeffrey
On Jan. 10, I emailed the pastor of Morrison Heights Baptist Church about my concerns about John Langworthy. He replied about a month later asking me to call him. I did call him and he stated he had been made aware of the allegations of abuse from a phone call from a past victim. He stated he had confronted John who admitted the abuse. In April, Greg Belser called me (audio embedded below) to set up a conference call with him and the six elders to discuss the results of their completed "investigation" and their reasons for concluding that they felt "safe" in keeping John Langworthy on staff. A few months later I received a voicemail from Philip Gunn, an elder of Morrison Heights, attorney and MS state representative. I emailed him asking the purpose of his call. He replied asking if I would be willing to discuss a resolution. I said no. (Update: details of this email exchange are included in my interview with Ross Adams of WJTV Jackson on Gunn's role).

audio of call with Greg Belser, pastor of Morrison Heights Baptist Church and Sherry LeFils, a former probation officer with the Dallas County sex offender unit:

That night (April 12, 2011)  that the conference call was to happen, Belser called to postpone stating that they had "come into some new information." This new information was a call from a past Mississippi victim who eventually went to the police in Clinton to report his abuse. The conference call with me, Sherry, Belser and the elders never happened.

In March, I sent several emails to staff at Clinton High School, including the principal and counselors. I also emailed a few members of the school board, staff at the Mississippi Department of Education and the communications director for Clinton Public Schools, Sandi Beason. I received 2 replies out of these emails. One from Wendy Polk, the director of communications for the MS Department of Education:
From: Wendy Polk
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2011 3:29 PM
Subject: RE: Concern about admitted sex offender at Clinton HS

Ms. Smith,
Thanks for your input on this matter.
Wendy Polk
and from Sandi Beason:
 From: Sandi Beason
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2011 8:45 AM
Subject: Re: Concern about a Clinton HS teacher
 Mrs. Smith,
How many people are you sending (rather, have you sent) this information to?
Sandi Beason
Public Information Officer
Clinton Public School District
(601) 924-7533

My additional correspondence with Prestonwood Baptist came in a reply from Mike Buster, executive pastor, after I sent a detailed email of my concerns to head pastor Dr. Jack Graham:
From: Mike Buster
Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2011 2:49 PM
Subject: your email

Dear Amy,
Thank you for taking the time to write us and share the information on John. I have discussed all of this with Dr. Graham. We were not aware of the most recent developements. Please know that we will cooperate fully with law enforsement agencies concerning this matter.
God bless you.
Mike Buster
Executive Pstor
Prestonwood Baptist Church
I urged Mike Buster to have the staff members at Prestonwood who directly knew about the abuse of children by John Langworthy make a report to the police. To my knowledge, they still have not done this. I do not believe statutes have expired because John fled Dallas in 1989 and has not returned since he was fired for the abuse allegations. It is required by law in TX to *report any knowledge of or suspicion of abuse of a child. A child is defined as anyone under the age of 18This mandatory reporting law was enacted in 1971. It is the right thing to do. Protecting kids has no statute of limitations.

My interview with News 8 investigative reporter Brett Shipp Disturbing revelations about former Prestonwood minister

 The Christian Post

The Oklahoman: Enid pastor renews call for clergy sex abuse database

Houston Chronicle: Ex-minister indicted on sex charges

Fox 40 Jackson

Since the news surfaced about John Langworthy, several victims from MS have come forward to the police, and he was indicted recently. The light of knowledge and truth is our greatest tool to protect kids. A few months ago, I became  the Houston leader for SNAP, a survivors network for those abused by clergy. We applaud these brave men who found the strength to come forward and report the abuse. We also hope it will encourage others who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes by Langworthy or any other offender to come forward, report the abuse to the police, expose predators, protect kids and start healing. Contact Sgt. Byron Fassett in the Dallas police department child exploitation unit at 214-671-4200.

 It’s always tempting to keep quiet about child sex crimes – whether known or suspected.  And for victims, that’s a very effective short term coping mechanism. But over the long haul, it’s terribly destructive. The lifelong effects of childhood victimization slowly and imperceptibly eat away at your self-esteem, trust and faith. And we must hold accountable those in positions of authority who endanger kids when they look the other way and fail to report child abuse to law enforcement authorities whose job it is to investigate the abuse.

Last week Family Life Today interviewed Justin Holcomb, a pastor at Mars Hill Church and director of the resurgence. Justin and his wife, Lindsey, wrote Rid of My Disgrace , a book on gospel hope and healing for sexual assault victims.

You Are Not to Blame is a powerful broadcast that I strongly recommend for survivors of sexual abuse and their families, friends and supporters, as well as anyone concerned with protecting kids. Here are a few notable quotes I gathered from the broadcast:

"Our culture doesn't like to talk about sexual assault."

"Shame is a prison that shuts people down."

"This can happen right under parents' noses."

"Do not offer simplistic platitudes."

"I know the memories and memories don't know time."

               WJTV: Langworthy trial set for April

We hope that John Langworthy will plead guilty to his child sex crimes and spare his victims the ordeal of a trial. But that may only happen if others who saw, suspected or suffered Langworthys' wrong-doing at any time, however long ago or however recent, come forward. The more victims and witnesses come forward, the stronger the prosecutors' case and the more likely Langworthy will admit his misdeeds.
We urge anyone with information about this accused and admitted child molester to call law enforcement immediately.
*I spoke with the Dallas Police Department after Langworthy's arrest to ask for contact numbers for any TX victims to call to report.  You can 911 to make a report of the crime. You will be directed to the appropriate unit. In that conversation, what was clear is that any victims in TX still need to call and make a report of the abuse. The whole truth needs to be known.

Dallas Police non-emergency 214-744-4444, Child Exploitation Unit 214-671-4211, Dallas Children's Advocacy Center Victim Assistant Coordinator 214-818-2613: DCAC will act as the go-between if you do not want to contact the police directly.
In Clinton, Mississippi, if you have any information, if you saw, suspected or suffered abuse by Langworthy or  any other perpetrator, please contact Josh Frazier in the Clinton police department at 601-924-5252. Jamie McBride, assistant district attorney for Hinds County can be reached at 601-968-6568 if you have information about the Langworthy case. Children's Advocacy Centers of Mississippi is also available at 601-969-7111 to assist in the reporting of child abuse and work in partnership with local law enforcement. Trained counselors are available. 
In cases involving child abuse, it is important not to worry about any statute of limitations or try to decipher legal issues. What may seem to be an insignificant detail may be the missing puzzle piece the investigators need. Go to them and tell them what you know and let them determine if it's important! They will keep your identity confidential.
Amy Smith
Houston SNAP, supporting survivors of clergy abuse

May the watchers become warriors in protecting kids.


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