A volunteer is accused of sexually abusing children at a North Richland Hills church.
Police are investigating three complaints of sexual abuse of children, two of which allegedly happened at Saint John the Apostle Church on Glenview Drive.
All three complaints involve children who, at the time of the alleged misconduct, were between the ages of five and 10. Now, officers say the victims are teenagers.
"We've had allegations of sexual misconduct and we take them seriously. But we also need information and evidence to move forward," said North Richland Hills Police Investigator Keith Bauman. "There are three specific situations that we are looking into."
Two instances of sexual misconduct allegedly happened inside the Catholic church during evening prayer meetings.
The third child was sexually victimized allegedly in Colleyville. Colleyville police have also joined the investigation.
"As far as we’re aware, the three allegations are from several years ago. That does not mean the case will stay that way. We don’t know the scope, if it’s going to grow," Bauman said.
It is the same person allegedly responsible for all three instances of abuse.
The person was a Saint John's Church volunteer. Police aren't saying if this person still lives locally or still attends worship services at the church.
Sunday, a representative from the Fort Worth Diocese read a statement during church services, informing worshipers about the investigation and asking any other victims to come forward.
I am Deacon Rigoberto Leyva, from the Central Offices of the Diocese of Fort Worth. I am here today on behalf of Bishop Michael Olson, who asked me to speak at each Mass this weekend.
The Diocese of Fort Worth has received reports very recently of sexual abuse of children by a layman who is a member of St. John the Apostle parish. The abuse is alleged to have occurred over the last seven or so years.
The allegations of sexual abuse do not involve a priest, or a deacon, but, instead, a lay volunteer.
All authorities have been notified. An investigation is under way.
The allegations have come from several victims. Some of the alleged abuse of minors is reported to have taken place on St. John the Apostle church property, during evening prayer meetings.
The Diocese of Fort Worth asks anyone in St. John parish who has been abused in any setting, or if anyone has a family member or friend who has been abused at St. John the Apostle parish or by a layman who attends St. John the Apostle Catholic Church, please contact the diocesan Victims’ Assistant Office at the Victim’s Assistance Hotline: 817-945-9345 or the Victim Assistance Direct Line: 817-602-5119.
I would also invite anyone from this parish who has been abused by any priest, deacon, employee or volunteer of the Church in any circumstance to contact Chancellor and Moderator of the Curia, Msgr. E. James Hart, so that the Church can reach out to you. Msgr. Hart can be reached at 817-945-4313.
It is not easy to speak about the reports of abuse to a parish community. It is important, however, for you to know that the Diocese is ready to reach out to those who have been hurt and need help, that we might assist in any way we can.
Thank you and God Bless.
The abuse is not ongoing and has not happened in the recent past, according to police.
In fact, investigators say the instances of abuse may have happened up to seven years ago.
Police did not reveal the genders of anyone involved.
It's unclear if the victims know each other or had recently spoken to each other. Police are not commenting on why they came forward now.
Police say that while they were first made aware of the allegations two weeks ago, they didn't feel comfortable coming forward to the media or the public because the investigation was so new.
"The children need an advocate. So if grown-ups don’t protect the children, then nobody will," Bauman said. "But at the same time, we don’t want to accuse an individual of a crime they didn’t commit. So, we don’t know where this case is going to lead."
However, because the Diocese addressed the ongoing investigation during a Sunday worship service, police felt it proper to at least acknowledge the few details that they are able to share.