Four men, all Jehovah’s Witnesses, have been charged with sexually abusing 19 people who were minors at the time, including relatives of their own, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. announced Thursday.
When police and Attorney General’s Office investigators tried to arrest one of the men, 61-year-old Eric Elim of Butler County, he killed himself by running into a bathroom.
The accusations stem from a grand jury investigation that began after The Inquirer published an investigation in 2018, in which witness leaders were accused of speaking out about abuse or seeking help from police. We investigated methods of regularly disfellowshipping and punishing survivors and even their families if asked to do so.
“Most of these defendants used their faith and church to access their victims, build trust, and inflict sexual abuse,” Shapiro said. “Some defendants only looked to their own family members to commit abuse.”
“These are the types of cases that haunt us,” he said. “They leave an indelible mark on our souls, and as prosecutors, as people of faith, and as parents, we cannot escape the repercussions of these incidents. These 19 children. deserved a place to grow up in peace, not to fall prey.”
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Details of the crimes of the four defendants and their suspects are available from court records released Thursday.
Jose Serrano, 69, from Lancaster County. He has been accused of abusing at least six of his minors. He confessed to committing many of these crimes to members of his community and to a grand jury, two of his Serrano victims for alleged abuse, including groping that culminated in forced rape. testified to a grand jury. Serrano was charged with lewd assault, lewd assault, and endangering the welfare of a child.
Jesse Hill 52, former Berks County, now Georgia resident. He allegedly lured boys from a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation to parties he owned in the 1990s with the promise of alcohol, marijuana, and pornography. He built a relationship with them by taking them to movie theaters and area malls and offering them gifts. A grand jury investigation identified at least 10 victims, and Hill pleaded guilty to many of those crimes, Shapiro said. I’m here.
» Read more: She says she was 5 years old when she was raped by another Jehovah’s Witness.Religious leaders call such accounts “false stories”
Robert Ostrander 56 years old, originally from Cambria County, now living in New York. Ostrander’s abusive behavior began in 2006. A grand jury heard testimony from her relatives. Shapiro said her relatives were initially physically abusive and sexually assaulted her by the time she was 15. Ostrander allegedly sexually assaulted another girl, a member of the congregation. She Ostrander is charged with lewd assault, endangering the welfare of a child and the corruption of a minor.
Eric Elim, 61, from Butler County. Elean’s relatives testified to a grand jury about sexual abuse as part of home discipline. where she grew up. She reported this abuse to her parents and other members of the community. The attorney general’s office has obtained documents summarizing the meeting where Eleam told People, “The sexual assault account must be true if she said it.” [the relative] don’t lie Elon was charged with rape, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, aggravated lewd assault, and endangering the welfare of a child.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have roots deep in Pennsylvania. Allegheny County native Charles Taze Russell founded the Millennium Religion in the 1870s. According to a 2014 Pew survey, more than 120,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses call Pennsylvania home, and in Philadelphia he has more than 10 congregations.
Multiple former witnesses who testified before a grand jury said investigators traveled to several states as part of their investigation and recorded testimony not only from abuse survivors, but also from former elders whose witnesses were parish priests. He told the Inquirer that he did.
The full extent of the investigation remains unknown. The Attorney General’s Office is asking other persons with allegations of abuse to contact the office through a special hotline at 1-888-538-8541.