ABILENE, Texas — A former deacon at an Abilene church was indicted by a Taylor County grand jury on Thursday for continuous sexual abuse of a child.
According to the indictment, Steven Henry Taylor, 50, of Abilene, sexually assaulted a child under the age of 14 on multiple occasions between January of 2008 and May of 2013.
According to documents, the Grand Forks Police Department in North Dakota notified the Abilene Police Department of an investigation into sexual assault allegations against Taylor, who was formerly a deacon at New Hope Church in Abilene.
A former congregant of New Hope Church, who attended the church with his family while living in Abilene as a teenager, claimed that he was sexually abused by Taylor from the time that he was 12 years old until the time that he was 18 years old.
According to the victim, Taylor started off by showing him sexually explicit images and a short time later, Taylor began to sexually abuse him.
The victim also said that he would spend the night at Taylor's residence, where he was subjected to further sexual abuse by Taylor.
Furthermore, the victim stated that Taylor would sexually assault him anywhere from one to three times per week on a weekly basis over a period of roughly four years.
While serving as a deacon at New Hope Church, Taylor conducted many of the men's retreats and youth activities held by the church.
Investigators also believe that many more children may have been sexually abused by Taylor.
New Hope Church, where Taylor formerly served as a deacon, released the following statement on Taylor's indictment, which can be read in full below:
It has recently come to our attention that Steve Taylor, a former member of New Hope Church between 2002-2009 was arrested and convicted in North Dakota on charges of indecency with a child. In that investigation it was uncovered that other children were victimized, some from Abilene. We are currently cooperating with APD in their investigation.
To do all we can to ensure the safety and well-being of our children on a daily basis, all employees, leaders, youth and children’s ministry volunteers must go through a criminal background check. This was done and returned to us clear. We also maintain a strict policy in all areas of youth and children’s ministry, including our Mother’s Day Out program, that no adult may be alone with a student or child at any time. We work to strictly enforce this policy at all times.
We are deeply saddened by these events, and our prayers are with all who may have been involved.
I am deeply saddened that you didn't know, or even suspect this predator. Is no-one listening to God in your church?
Christy Gutowski Chicago Tribune
Several state lawmakers on Thursday called for an independent investigation into an Uptown psychiatric hospital that has seen a rise in complaints this year alleging that vulnerable children and teens were sexually and physically abused as a result of lax supervision and improper staff conduct.
Four Democratic legislators said they have written letters to Beverly “B.J.” Walker, the acting director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, urging a review of Chicago Lakeshore Hospital’s 60-bed children’s unit in the wake of published reports in the Chicago Tribune and by ProPublica Illinois about the recent problems.
Sen. Julie Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat who for years has held statewide hearings regarding various child welfare-related systemic problems, said the recent issues at Chicago Lakeshore require more urgency. She has asked Walker to initiate a 60-day independent investigation by an academic or other expert in the field.
“We seem to be able to identify problems and then there’s no end,” Morrison said. “I want some leadership out of DCFS. I’ve set a timeline so that there’s accountability.”
DCFS Inspector General Meryl Paniak first called for the outside investigation after learning that the state child welfare agency has received 16 hotline complaints this year alleging that young patients faced further harm in the hospital. Paniak said that number is a lot, given that there were only 17 total in the three years prior.
DCFS spokesman Neil Skene said Walker is considering the lawmakers’ request, but he argued that several agencies already are looking into the hospital.
“The independent review is under way by the agencies with legal responsibility for oversight of hospitals, the (Illinois) Department of Public Health and the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid,” Skene said. “DCFS investigated the individual allegations of neglect and abuse and has added visits by its own clinical staff to focus on the safety and care of DCFS youth at the hospital. We have not seen a reason to complicate the reviews already being done by adding another review.”
The agency instead has stepped up the number of hospital visits its clinical staff make to ensure the well-being of young patients. DCFS said the hospital has been cooperative and the agency’s clinical staff has not uncovered evidence that children are at risk of harm.
In a separate letter, state Reps. Sara Feigenholtz and Greg Harris and Sen. Heather Steans also urged Walker to “swiftly” follow the agency’s inspector general’s recommendation.
“The reviewer should develop recommendations on how to proceed to guarantee the safety and best possible outcomes for youth who are patients at Chicago Lakeshore or those who might be admitted in the future, a remediation program and timeline, or whatever actions he or she deem to be in the best interests of the youth,” the letter said.
The hospital is in the district that Harris and Steans represent, and Feigenholtz has long advocated for child welfare issues in the House.
Earlier this summer, Harris had argued in support of the hospital after federal authorities threatened to cut funding over other issues. Harris said the hospital’s closure would exacerbate an ongoing shortage for inpatient psychiatric services in Chicago and the surrounding community.
On Thursday, Harris said he was unaware of the 16 hotline complaints until the recent media reports and urged an immediate independent review. “It’s very disturbing,” he said. “I don’t really want to hear their excuses. I want to hear we’re taking each allegation seriously … and ensure that we take every action we need to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Many of the hospital’s hotline complaints this year centered on allegations of inadequate supervision that resulted in sexual activity or fights between underage patients. DCFS determined that seven complaints were unfounded and four were “indicated,” meaning the agency deemed enough credible evidence existed to substantiate the complaint. Five are pending.
Hospital officials, however, told the Tribune they conducted an internal investigation and determined that all 16 incidents were unsubstantiated. Paniak called that “ridiculous.”
In a pending investigation, a 7-year-old girl said a 12-year-old boy pulled down her pants and sexually assaulted her with his finger. At the time of the alleged Sept. 10 incident, the girl had been hospitalized for more than two months for homicidal and suicidal behaviors.
She also was one of two young female patients who accused a male staff member of touching them in a sexual manner. She said the worker kissed her and assaulted her with his finger in early September. The other girl, who is 12, told a counselor the man touched her breast in late August.
DCFS and Chicago police are still investigating. Chicago Lakeshore officials said the man has not been working at the hospital during the investigations.
In another pending complaint, the mother of an 8-year-old boy called the hotline Sept. 9 alleging her son was battered by peers, touched sexually and exposed to two masturbating roommates during the five days he was hospitalized. She told the Tribune that hospital staff failed to properly monitor her son’s safety.
“We put him there to get help, not to traumatize him further,” said the mother, who asked not to be publicly identified to protect her son’s privacy.
One of four cases DCFS has deemed credible was an April complaint from the mother of a 17-year-old patient with intellectual and mental health issues. The boy suffered a bloody mouth and facial cuts and bruising after two staff members dragged him to his bedroom and threatened to break his arm while pinning him down on his bed, with his arms held over the bedrail, according to documents.
An earlier federal letter regarding other safety issues had sparked Paniak’s review of the 16 complaints. She also noted that a few children in the hospital who are in DCFS’ protective custody because of traumatic histories of abuse and neglect still were hospitalized even though they had been deemed stable and ready for release. The problem has long vexed the state, which struggles to find places for these children to live.
Besides the state and federal investigations, the Tribune also found that four former adult patients have sued the hospital in the last year alleging sexual assault.
One man said he was sodomized by a much larger male peer in his room in 2015 despite warning staff of his safety concerns, according to one of the lawsuits. The man died earlier this year, according to his lawyer, but his family is continuing the suit.
There is precedent for an outside review.
Several years ago, DCFS had experts at the University of Illinois at Chicago investigate conditions inside various psychiatric hospitals, including Chicago Lakeshore. The university’s 2011 report found that inadequate staffing levels and lax supervision contributed to four incidents in which youths allegedly were sexually assaulted or abused by their peers.
The hospital sharply disputed the findings, and the report was shelved without further action.
The UIC review followed a 2010 Tribune investigation that uncovered multiple allegations of rape or sexual abuse of minors at a half-dozen area psychiatric hospitals, including four incidents at Chicago Lakeshore.
Jason Michael Ludke has prior convictions for child sexual assault and for making death threats against a federal judge. Also according to the plea agreement, Ludke was on probation at the time he was arrested and had cut the tracking device from his ankle before leaving Wisconsin.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, United States Attorney Matthew D. Krueger for the Eastern District of Wisconsin along with Special Agent-in-Charge R. Justin Tolomeo of the FBI’s Milwaukee Division made the announcement .
According to the plea agreement, Ludke and a co-conspirator agreed that they would travel through Mexico to Syria and Iraq in order to join ISIS and to work under its direction and control.
Ludke also recorded a video of himself pledging his allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and stating that he was ready to join ISIS.
Ludke told an FBI Undercover Employee (UCE), who Ludke believed was assisting in the travel plans, that Ludke had training in jiu-jitsu and computers, which Ludke believed would benefit ISIS.
Ludke and his coconspirator were traveling to the Texas/Mexico border on Oct. 5, 2016, in order to accomplish their plan to join ISIS (in Syria or Iraq), when law enforcement located and arrested them.
“This conviction demonstrates the United States’ resolute commitment to protecting our country and combatting foreign terrorism,” United States Attorney Krueger said.
“Individuals like Ludke who seek to provide material support to ISIS will be held accountable.”
Ludke faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, a maximum term of supervised release of life, and a maximum fine of $250,000.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the JTTF and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Paul Kanter and Benjamin Taibleson and Trial Attorney Jolie F. Zimmerman of the Department’s Counterterrorism Section.
By CHARLES BOOTHE Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PRINCETON — Billy Jo Church has been found guilty on all counts in a sexual abuse case that involved children.
After a three-day trial that included testimony of two of the victims, who are now adults, the jury took only 40 minutes to reach the verdict.
Mercer County Circuit Court Judge William Sadler denied a defense motion for Church to continue to be released on bond awaiting sentencing.
Church was escorted out of the courtroom by police and taken into custody as many members of the victims’ family watched.
Sadler set a Jan. 7 date for a hearing related to a defense motion for a new trial and for sentencing. Assistant Prosecutor Janet Williamson said Church will spend the rest of his life in jail.
“These charges carry hundreds of years (in jail),” she said, adding that she is “weary” of these sexual abuse cases involving children but is pleased with the verdict.
After Church was escorted from the courtroom, Williamson thanked the adult victims who came forward after living with the trauma of what happened for years with tearful hugs.
The investigation started last year after a call was made to the West Virginia State Police about the sexual assault of a 6-yer-old child under the care of Church.
After that investigation started and Church was charged, two adults came forward, both members of Church’s family, who said they were abused by him when they were children.
Those allegations against Church were presented in graphic detail by the victims during the trial.
The incidents took place at Church’s residence on Chessy Creek Road.
Matthew Scott Cook started abusing the girl when she was just 10, forcing her to watch him have sex with his wife, among other "gross" things.
When they did come back, they found the Blue Ash, Ohio home was filled with feces, garbage and more than 100 animals, including snakes and bearded dragons, cluttering the home that also served as the stage for the horrific sexual abuse of a young girl, according to documents obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The home, where Cook resided with his wife and two daughters, also had a room with sex toys, pornographic videos and a bed equipped with four-point restraints. The bedroom floor was littered with snake skins, the newspaper reports.
Cook pleaded guilty to gross sexual imposition and child pornography charges and was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for sexually assaulting one of his daughter's friends.
The young girl, who was just 10 years old when the abuse began, provided a statement about the abuse that was read in court Tuesday.
She said Scott would frequently call her into another room when she was at the house to play with his daughter and force her to watch pornography. When she had sleepovers at the home, he would text her in the middle of the night and tell her to come into his room where he made her watch himself having sex with his wife.
The girl, who is now 15, described the encounters as "gross" and "scary," the paper reports. She also recalled being forced to sit in a hot tub with Scott and his wife while she wore a bikini he had purchased for her. She said he would touch her and his wife at the same time.
Over the two-year period when the abuse occurred, Scott also sexually assaulted her and forced her to touch his genitals.
The abuse has scarred the now-teenager, who said in the statement that she is on medication for depression and anxiety and has tried to take her own life in the past.
"I don't like to be hugged by any man, because I know what can happen," she said, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Scott's wife, who the paper reported is developmentally delayed, has now filed for divorce from her husband.
Scott was given the five-year sentence as part of plea deal made with prosecutors, although Judge Jody Luebbers said she would have sentenced him to a longer jail term if possible, calling him a "danger to society."
Cook was previously convicted of corruption of a minor in 2000 for a separate incident, the New York Post reports.
Who was the DA who authorized that deal? You've put other children at risk, and for what? Maybe you should find a job you're good at.
When the abuse began, she was too young to realize what was happening. Then, she was too scared to report it. Later, she blamed herself for not speaking out.
But by the time she stood in court Wednesday, the girl — now high-school aged — knew that only her abuser was at fault.
“I want to make it clear that the only person I blame is you, Craig,” she said.
Craig Wilson sat silently at the defendant’s table. A few minutes earlier, the 58-year-old Hinsdale resident had pleaded guilty to aggravated felonious sexual assault and to two counts of possessing a child sexual abuse image.
According to the charges, Wilson sexually abused the girl for a period of time when she was younger than 13. He also possessed two sexually explicit images of her.
Under the terms of a plea deal, Wilson was sentenced to 12 to 30 years in N.H. State Prison. In addition, a suspended prison sentence of 12 to 24 years will hang over him for the rest of his life. He will have to register as a sex offender.
Judge David W. Ruoff approved the agreement Wednesday in Cheshire County Superior Court in Keene.
The plea deal spared Wilson a potentially more severe sentence. In New Hampshire, an adult convicted of engaging in a pattern of sexual abuse against a child under 13 — as Wilson was — can face 25 years to life.
Assistant County Attorney Keith W. Clouatre said enduring a trial would not have been in the victim’s best interest, especially given the already lengthy delays.
The abuse happened sometime between early 2011 and the end of 2014, according to court documents. Police were investigating by late 2015, and in March 2016, prosecutors obtained the first of what would be two rounds of grand jury indictments against Wilson. A couple years of pretrial motions, deadline extensions and postponed trial dates followed.
The delays were such that the girl never thought she would actually see her abuser punished, she said in her statement to the court.
She said Wilson — whom she knew before he started assaulting her — betrayed her trust. The abuse continued, she said, until she was almost 13.
“For a long time, I wished you would die,” the girl said. Then she decided death would be “too kind.”
“First, you will live with what you did for a little longer,” she said, “and I hope it rips you apart.”
Before imposing the sentence, Ruoff addressed the girl directly. He had never met her. But from reviewing the case file, he said, he knew the strength it took for her to get through the past several years.
“I hope today brings you some closure,” he said.
Many victims, he added, never hear their abusers say they are guilty.
PAWNEE COUNTY, Okla. – An Oklahoma sheriff’s office is being credited with helping to capture an elusive sex offender in another country.
KJRH reports that Meyer had been on the run since 2015 after she was convicted of enabling child sex abuse in Pawnee County.
After learning that there were 12 outstanding warrants for Meyer’s arrest, Chapman began searching for any clue she could find.
“Out of all the offenders that I have, that was the one I was most set on getting,” Chapman said.
Eventually, the clues led Chapman to a Facebook post in Mexico. Last week, U.S. Marshals arrested Meyer and her boyfriend.
“After I got off the phone with [the U.S. Marshal] I screamed because I was so happy. I was like we finally got her!” she said.
FAIRMONT — A man was arrested and charged with sexual abuse on Monday.
The incident took place on Walnut Avenue in Fairmont.
The couple was asked to take a polygraph test after the child's teacher reported that she thought the child was abused, and the test showed signs of dishonesty.
The Fairmont Police Department said that Robert Newbrough was charged with sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian.
According to Billie Joe Newbrough, Robert threatened her and make her take part in the sexual contact. Billy Joe Newbrough was arrested later as well.
Both Robert and Billie Joe Newbrough were taken to the North Central Regional Jail and have a bail amount of $200,000.