(RNS) — 4 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been charged for sexually abusing 19 youngsters of their congregations, Pennsylvania Lawyer Normal Josh Shapiro introduced in a press convention this morning (Oct. 27). The alleged crimes of the 4 defendants are separate, however all passed off in Jehovah’s Witness communities in Pennsylvania. The costs embody indecent assault, rape and involuntary deviate sexual activity.
“The instances that we’re right here to announce are deeply disturbing, the allegations onerous to think about, whereas all sharing one frequent tie,” Shapiro stated on the press convention. “Most of those defendants used their religion and church to realize entry to their victims to construct their belief after which molested them.”
The costs are the results of a 3 12 months investigation involving dozens of witnesses and tons of of hours of grand jury testimony. The investigation started with a referral from a neighborhood district lawyer’s workplace in 2019. Three of the defendants have been taken into custody — the fourth took his life when officers tried to arrest him early this morning.
“Kids have a proper to develop up in a protected neighborhood however have been defiled by members of their very own congregations. Some defendants solely appeared so far as their very own households to commit their abuse,” stated Shapiro. “My workplace is not going to cease till these defendants are held accountable for the crimes towards harmless youngsters.”
The boys charged within the investigation are Jose Serrano, 69, of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; Jesse Hill, 52, previously of Berks County, Pennsylvania, now a resident of the state of Georgia; Robert Ostrander, 56, previously of Cambria County, Pennsylvania, now a resident of New York state; and Eric Eleam, 61, of Butler County, Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Workplace of Lawyer Normal’s prices stem from the forty ninth Investigating Grand Jury.
In 2011, Serrano allegedly molested six younger women, together with his daughter. “His personal daughter testified to the grand jury that her mom would remind her to lock the door at evening if her father was round,” Shapiro stated. He has been charged with endangering the welfare of a kid, indecent assault and aggravated indecent assault.
Shapiro stated that within the Nineties, Hill uncovered himself to younger boys and compelled them to carry out oral intercourse after luring them to his property with guarantees of medication and alcohol. He has been charged with corruption of minors, rape, indecent assault and involuntary deviate sexual activity.
Ostrander allegedly started bodily abusing his relations in 2006. Shapiro stated the bodily abuse escalated into sexual assault of his step-daughter. He added that, resulting from his place as an energetic member of a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation, Ostrander gained unsupervised entry to his step-daughter’s good friend, whom he additionally allegedly assaulted. He has been charged with corruption of minors, indecent assault and endangering the welfare of kids.
Shapiro additionally introduced that Eleam, the defendant who took his life, used sexual molestation to self-discipline his daughter. He was charged with endangering the welfare of a kid, aggravated indecent assault, rape and involuntary deviate sexual activity.
Shapiro concluded the announcement by encouraging different victims of sexual abuse to report by way of the sexual assault hotline, 888-538-8541.
“As prosecutors, as folks of religion, as mother and father, we will’t escape the affect that these instances have,” Shapiro stated. “These 19 youngsters, they deserved a spot to develop up in peace, to not be preyed upon. That is an abuse of belief, an abuse of energy. I’ll remind you, it doesn’t matter what energy you cloak your self in, everyone seems to be accountable underneath the regulation.”