The Odessa American reports that Gerald Dean Campbell, who is charged with engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, waived the hearing Friday and could face up to life in federal prison if convicted.
According to a federal complaint, Campbell admitted to agents when they interviewed him last month to having sexual contact with 11 orphans, eight of whom he believed to be minors.
Campbell was the general manager of the Victory Christian Children's Home from 1997 until 2009, when he resigned amid the sexual abuse claims.
Campbell is a member of Grace Fellowship Church, Odessa, TX, which has had ties with the children’s home for a number of years.
Roy Key, the former business manager at the church and occasional pastor, said he’s known Campbell since shortly after joining the church in 2008, and he heard rumors of the reported sexual abuse when he became business manager.
“I heard the rumors,” Key said. “I also was told that the Malawi police and the tribal authority over there and the social services agency over there investigated them and deemed them not to be true.”
The organization that runs the home, Charles Trombley Ministries, also was made aware of the accusations in 2009, according to the criminal complaint, at which point Campbell resigned from his position but still remained active in the local church.
A video on the ministry website, which has since been removed from the Grace Fellowship website, briefly features Campbell on camera while a boy speaks about his time at the home.
At one point, Key said, Campbell was the business manager of Grace Fellowship.
Key said now that he’s seen the criminal complaint, he believes Campbell abused the orphans.
“Sunday I’m going to make an announcement at the church about the story that’s come out and I’m going to ask if anyone has had any contact with him that’s inappropriate to contact me immediately so we can contact the authorities,” Key said.
Campbell admitted to federal agents when they interviewed him on Sept. 25 to having sexual contact with 11 orphans, eight of whom he believed to be minors, according to the complaint.
He said he fondled two of the boys’ genitals and engaged in oral sex with them, according to the complaint.
One of the boys, a now-21-year-old man, said Campbell sexually abused him in 2001 after the boy was released from the hospital. According to the complaint, the man said Campbell routinely touched his genitals and forced oral sex, once trying to have anal sex with the boy.
Campbell told Homeland Security Investigations agents that he took advantage of the boys “because I knew I could,” according to the complaint. He also said of one of the reported victims, “Who would believe him?”
According to the complaint, Campbell also paid two of the orphans money or other things of value to keep them quiet.
A significant portion of people traveling internationally to engage in sexual acts with children are U.S. citizens, according to a report by international child abuse awareness advocate ECPAT. The organization’s website states that it works to end child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes.
“It is a common belief among some Americans who sexually exploit children that it is legal and culturally acceptable to have sex with children in some foreign countries. Some of these sex tourists see such exploitation as a respectable way of helping a poor child earn money,” according to the report. “It is reported that the U.S. government does not generate sufficient awareness or provide prevention messages on child sex tourism and many travelers are unaware that engaging in child sex tourism is an offense in the (United States), no matter where it is committed.”
Key said he does not believe the man abused any children in Odessa, calling him a loner and that “he stays away from everybody.”
“I can say nothing more than (I’m) disappointed. Just disappointed,” Key said. “It’s like you lost a family member. It’s like a friend has died and the person that I knew has died. There’s grieving, there’s anger, but I’m disappointed.”