5 employees to return to ministry after suspension

AP News
Posted: Oct 08, 2012 6:34 PM
5 employees to return to ministry after suspension

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Five suspended employees of a Tulsa megachurch charged with waiting more than two weeks to report the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl will be returning to the ministry by the end of the month with different responsibilities, church leaders said.

Victory Christian Center pastor Bruce Edwards made the announcement during this weekend's services at the 17,000-member worldwide ministry.

Prosecutors allege the 13-year-old girl told employees around Aug. 15 that she had been raped in a stairwell on the church's campus in south Tulsa — but police weren't told until Aug. 30, after church officials said they did their own investigation. Police and church authorities then determined she was among at least four victims of alleged sex crimes by two former employees.

Among those charged for not reporting the allegations are John and Charica Daugherty, the son and daughter-in-law of ministry co-founder and head pastor Sharon Daugherty. The others are Paul Willemstein, Anna George and Harold "Frank" Sullivan. All five have pleaded not guilty to one misdemeanor count each and are due in court Oct. 31.

A church spokesman said Monday that the two departments in which the five employees worked have been restructured to add a direct supervisor above them.

Former Victory employee Chris Denman was arrested Sept. 5 on a complaint alleging that he raped the 13-year-old girl and molested a 15-year-old girl. Prosecutors also charged the 20-year-old with making a lewd proposal to a child and using a computer to commit a sex crime involving a 12-year-old girl.

Denman has pleaded not guilty to the charges involving the two older girls, but has yet to enter a plea for the other charge. He remained jailed Monday on $200,000 bond and is due in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing.

The other former church employee, 23-year-old Israel Castillo, is charged with making a lewd proposal to a 15-year-old girl and using a computer to commit a sex crime. He posted bond and has pleaded not guilty.