Authorities in Pennsylvania have charged five male Jehovah’s Witnesses with a spate of child sex crimes, claiming that the men used their positions in the faith community to sexually assault their victims.
Marc Brown, 65, of Allegheny County; Raymond Shultz, 74, of Beaver County; Abimael Valentin-Matos, 42, of Lancaster County; Kevin Isovitsch, 51, of Butler County; and Norman Aviles, 44, also of Lancaster County are all facing felony charges for allegedly sexually exploiting and abusing children – in some cases members of their family – with the victims ranging in age from 5 to 15, Pennsylvania’s Acting Attorney General Michelle Henry announced.
All of the suspects have been arrested and detained except for Aviles, who authorities say is still at large.
Brown is accused of “regularly” sexually abusing two young sisters who were between the ages of 10 and 13 while he was their legal guardian. The elder of the two young girls allegedly told investigators that Brown had threatened her, saying that “if she stopped him from abusing her, or if she reported his abuse of her, he would abuse her [younger] sister,” according to a report from the attorney general’s office. He has been charged with aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors.
Shultz is accused of sexually abusing his granddaughters who were between the ages of 5 and 10 at the time of the alleged assaults, which prosecutors said occurred approximately between 2000 and 2007. Years later, Schultz sent each girl a check for $2,500 after learning that they were speaking to a counselor about being abused as children, prosecutors said. He too was charged with aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors.
Valentin-Matos allegedly had sex multiple times with a 15-year-old girl whom he was allegedly “courting within the church and had promised to eventually marry.” The victim allegedly told authorities that the elders in her congregation approved Valentin-Matos’ “romantic interest” in the girl provided certain conditions were met, which led her to believe their interactions were “appropriate and normal,” prosecutors said. He is charged with indecent assault, indecent exposure, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors.
Isovitsch sexually assaulted his 9-year-old niece, prosecutors alleged. He was charged with rape, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors.
Aviles is accused of molesting “at least three young children” between the ages of 5 and 10. Prosecutors said Aviles was “an elder in his congregation, which helped him gain the trust of many parents and afforded him access to their children.” He is facing charges of aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors.
The Lancaster City Police Department opened an investigation into Aviles in 2010 for sexually abusing children, prosecutors said. However, the matter was closed, “due in part, to a lack of information” which investigators say they have since obtained.
“The details of these crimes are sad and disturbing, facts which are made even more abhorrent because the defendants used their faith communities or their own families to gain access to victims,” Henry said in a statement. “Our office will never stop working to seek justice for those who have been victimized, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute anyone who harms the most vulnerable in our society.”
Watch Henry’s press conference below.
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