The state nearly wrapped up its case Friday against Pastor Mike Sperou, presenting seven women who testified that he sexually abused them when they were young girls growing up in his Happy Valley church.
After a Multnomah County jury hears from two more prosecution witnesses, Sperou and his attorney, Steven J. Sherlag, are expected to start putting on their defense Monday afternoon.
Sperou, who leads the North Clackamas Bible Community, has been charged with three counts of first-degree sexual penetration. If convicted on all counts, he would face a mandatory minimum sentence of eight years, four months in prison.
The Oregonian/OregonLive generally does not disclose the names of possible sexual abuse victims. But the seven women connected with the case have come forward, asking that their stories be told.
On Friday, Shannon Clark, the alleged victim in the case, testified that her first memory revolves around being molested.
Clark, 29, of Oak Grove said she was about 3 years old when Sperou visited her parents' home and invited her to sit on his lap while they watched "Sesame Street" together on television.
"I remember that Elmo was on when he put his hands up under my shirt and putting his fingers inside of me," Clark said. "It really hurt and there was blood everywhere."
Clark said the abuse continued for seven years, when her family left the church.
Another woman, Bryn Garrett of North Portland, said she often was invited to spend time in Sperou's bed, considered a privilege that showed she was in the church leader's favor. However, Garrett said, it became uncomfortable when she was about 6 years old.
During cross-examination, Sherlag focused on any inconsistencies he detected, setting the stage for his defense case. Sherlag said he intends to show how memories deteriorate over time and often are "edited" every time a person recalls them.
Sherlag also said the women's stories have been "contaminated" by discussing their memories with one another and by police interviews that may have suggested events that never actually took place.
The trial has offered up contradictory pictures of the North Clackamas Bible Community, a small conservative Christian church whose core members live communally in a group of rental homes that straddle the city limits of Portland and Happy Valley. Sunday services, along with weekly Bible study and language classes, are held in the homes.
In 1997, Clark and Garrett were among seven girls who alleged that Sperou had molested them. No charges were brought because prosecutors found that the girls' stories were inconsistent or vague.
Sex-abuse allegations against pastor
In 1996, seven girls told police that they were sexually abused by the pastor of a small Portland-area church. After an investigation, prosecutors declined to pursue the case, calling it unwinnable. Now the pastor faces new charges based on new allegations from one of the women.
Fifteen years later, the girls -- by then adult women -- again took their complaints to police. After an investigation, authorities found that the statute of limitations had expired on all of the complaints except those raised by Clark, who brought up additional allegations not considered in 1997.
Defense attorney Sherlag said he intends to base an appeal on Albrecht's ruling if Sperou is convicted.
On Monday, prosecutor Chris Mascal plans to call to the stand a retired Portland police detective who investigated the 1997 complaints, and a social worker.
The trial is expected to run another week.