State police investigated alleged sexual abuse by church volunteer

Local - 11/26/2013 10:19 AM
(Picture Courtesy: Westminster Presbyterian Church)

BLUEFIELD - State police are investigating a case of alleged sexual abuse by a Mercer County church volunteer.

Sgt. M.D. Clemons with the Crimes Against Children Unit told Newswatch that the individual in question was a youth minister at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Bluefield.  The allegations stemmed from reports of incidents that involved juveniles.  Clemons said the victims are pre-teens and teenagers.  She added that the church is cooperating with the investigation and criminal charges have not been filed.  Investigators are looking for people who may have additional complaints. 

Sr. Pastor Jonathan Rockness released the following statement to WOAY:

"Just to clarify a bit on the individual in question: he is not on the church staff, nor has he ever been employed by Westminster.  However, through the years he has volunteered in various capacities for the church, including with youth trips that required chaperones. 
 
In early 2013 we were alerted to an incident of misconduct that allegedly occurred several years ago.  We went directly to the State Police and reported what we had learned.  The police told us to stay quiet about it until they were able to take a look at the case. 
 
In June, the police reported back to us that they would not be pursuing the case, as the behavior we reported was inappropriate, but not actionable.  Even though the legal authorities declined to pursue the case any further, the leadership of the church was not satisfied that we had gotten to the bottom of the situation.
 
Therefore we conducted our own investigation into the matter, while also suspending the individual from church activities (other than worship).  Our investigation recently yielded some actionable information.  We immediately reported this new information to the authorities once again.
 
We have been fully cooperative with the authorities and will continue to be, as we are committed to uncovering the truth and seeing justice met.  We also hope and pray for healing and wholeness for any potential victims in this situation.  We are devastated for them and their families. "

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