Nine Jehovah’s Witnesses Charged with Child Rape

Pursuant to the recommendations of the 49th Investigating Grand Jury of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, nine (9) Jehovah's Witnesses have been arrested and charged since October 2022 to present, for the sexual assault and exploitation of children. The offenses occurred during the years 1990 to 2009, spanning some 20 years.

All nine (9) male Jehovah's Witness offenders range in age 42 to 74 at the time of arrest. At the time of the offense, their ages were between 20 and 52.

All nine offenders used their religious community to gain access to their victims. They include two (2) congregation elders. One (1) committed suicide when police attempted an arrest. Another offender previously paid $US2500 to each of his victims as hush money. Another attempted to flee police custody and was later arrested in Puerto Rico on February 9, 2023.

An arrest of a 10th Jehovah's Witness is due in the near future.

CAUTION - This article contains explicit sexual content that is very disturbing and NSFW. Reader discretion is strongly advised.

Written by Lester Somrah and published on February 19, 2023
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, USA –  Starting in October 27, 2022 and under the supervision of then Attorney General Josh Shapiro, criminal charges against four individuals in Pennsylvania was laid for the sexual assault and exploitation of children. In each case, all of the defendants’ victims were minors and members of Jehovah’s Witness congregations:
  • Jesse Hill, formerly of Berks County and now a resident of the state of Georgia
  • Jose Serrano, of Lancaster County
  • Eric Eleam, of Butler County
  • and Robert Ostrander,  formerly of Cambria County and now a resident of New York. When agents from the Office of Attorney General and police from Butler County attempted to take Eric Eleam into custody, he retreated into his bathroom and killed himself behind closed doors.
Additionally on February 7, 2023 and under the supervision of  Acting Attorney General Michelle Henry, criminal charges were filed against five additional individuals from Pennsylvania for the sexual assault and exploitation of children. In each case, all of the defendants and their victims were members of Jehovah’s Witness congregations:
  • Marc Brown, of Allegheny County
  • Raymond Shultz, of Beaver County;
  • Abimael Valentin-Matos, of Lancaster County;
  • Kevin Isovitsch, of Butler County;
  • and Norman Aviles, of Lancaster County.
It is concerning to note that Jose Serrano, Abimael Valentin-Matos and Norman Aviles are from the same county; Eric Eleam and Kevin Isovitsch are both from Butler County. The criminal charges stem from the 49th Investigating Grand Jury and are prosecuted by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. Through the investigation, it was revealed that these Jehovah’s Witness men sexually abused and exploited minors with whom they had close contact, in some cases members of their own family. All nine men used “their [religious] faith communities or their own families to gain access to victims”. Additionally, through the investigations of 49th Investigating Grand Jury, it was revealed that 1st four (4) men charged by Attorney General Josh Shapiro, sexually abused and exploited 19 minors with whom they had close contact, in some cases their own children.

Summary of the Criminal Offenses

(Reader Discretion Advised)

Jesse Hill (age at offense, 22; age at arrest, 52) was from the Kutztown Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and whose family were prominent in the said congregation. According to the Presentment, Hill was able to gain the trust of several parents in the congregation and was permitted extensive access to congregational minor males. He used this trust to provide the said minors with alcohol, marijuana and pornographic material. One victim testified that in the 1990’s, Hill fondled his genitals from the time he was 11 years to 17 years in 1998 and also performed oral sex on him. Another victim testified that between 1992 and 1998, Hill molested him 150 times, some of which occurred at the Kutztown Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Robert Ostrander (age at offense, 38; age at arrest, 56)  sexually assaulted two minors, included his step-daughter, in their mid-teens. According to the charge document, Ostrander would discipline the minors by making them lie on the floor with their legs apart. On other occasions, Ostrander used wrestling or rough-housing to grope their breast and buttocks.

Jose Serrano (age at offense, 27; age at arrest, 68) had six (6) victims, one of whom testified that groping eventually escalated into forcible rape. Serrano’s daughter testified that her father removed her from public education to be “home-schooled”. Serrano taught her that “in the Bible you have to obey your parents and we are your parents and you hav et to listen to us and whatever we do”. These controlling actions were reinforced by both physical and sexual assaults, the later of which started in 1993 and continued for years. Serrano’s daughter testified that she suffered from a constant and inexplicable case of severe hemorrhoids whilst growing up; and that Serrano prevented his said minor daughter from seeking medical attention for her condition and prevented her from seeing a gynecologist. 

Eric Eleam (age at offense, 31; age at arrest, 61)  regularly sexually assaulted and raped his daughter between 1992 to 1997 from the age of 12 to 17. Eleam’s daughter testified that her father would often beat her and her siblings; and that he would incorporate sexual acts into her “punishment”, including oral sex and sexual molestation at night. She further testified that when she locked her bedroom door to keep him out, Eleam would get angrier and force more sexual acts on her.

Abimael Valentin-Matos (age at offense, 24; age at arrest, 42), a congregation elder, molested and assaulted a non-relative female minor who was residing with her mother and two (2) sisters at his home. This single parent family were active members of the Lancaster East Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Grand Jury learned that in 2009 at a Circuit Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses  (a religious gathering of multiple congregations held at an Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses or a rented facility), Matos followed the said her female minor and obtained her mobile phone number. Through their communications Matos determined that the said minor was half his age. Matos was 30 years old.

The victim testified that Matos promised he would eventually marry her and that they could court if a chaperone was present pursuant to the instructions of their congregation elders. Matos however, began sending the said minor photographs of his genitals and on one of their dates without any chaperone present, Matos convinced the said female minor to masturbate him and she complied. She later reported it to the congregation elders and when they interviewed Matos, he claimed that the 15 year old female minor initiated the sexual acts.

Raymond Shultz (age at offense, 52; age at arrest, 74) sexually abused his minor granddaughters, one of whom came forward to the Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania (OAG) in November 2022, after learning about the arrest of four Jehovah’s Witnesses members in October 2022 and who are listed above.

Shultz’s granddaughter testified before the Grand Jury that when she was between 5 and 10 years old (between 2000 and 2005), Shultz picked her up from her bed in her grandmother’s room, took her to his bed where he masturbated, touched her genitals and penetrated her vagina with his finger. She further testified that she left Jehovah’s Witnesses 5 years ago and did not come to terms with the fact the she had been abused until she was 26 or 27 years old. She explained that she did not make a police report whilst she was a Jehovah’s Witnesses because she did not comprehend what happened to her and that making a police report was discouraged as doing so can “bring reproach to Jehovah”.

Her sister was located by OAG Special Agents and she also testified before the Grand Jury that her grandfather sexually abused her when she was between 6 and 9 years old (between 2004 and 2007); and that he groped her vagina and penetrated her vagina with his finger.

Both granddaughters testified that after word had gotten to their grandparents that they were seeking and receiving professional therapy, they each received a $2500 check from their grandparents with no explanation. “It was the one of the only gifts they had received from them in their life.”

Kevin Isovitsch (age at offense, 34; age at arrest, 51)  of the Chicora Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, sexually assaulted his nine (9) year old niece, when visiting his home with her cousins. She testified that Isovitsch place her against a wall, pulled down her pants, proceeded to expose his penis and rub it on her genitals. When he heard his wife entering the home, he discontinued the assault. Her brother testified that at some point between 2005 and 2008, during family worship on the topic of sexual contact, that one of his questions prompted his mother to question his sister, who then revealed her sexual assault.

Marc Brown (age at offense, 47; age at arrest, 65) molested two (2) minors who are sisters between 2004 and 2006, of whom he was the legal guardian. One sister (G.W) disclosed that Brown regularly sexually assaulted her some 20 times between 2004 and 2006 when she was 12 or 13 years old, whilst their mother was working night shift. G.W testified that on one occasion, Brown instructed her sister (R.W) who was in her pajamas, to lie in bed with him.  G.W knew that he was only in his underwear as she herself had been previously regularly assaulted by Brown in like-manner.

G.W testified that Brown used threats to keep her silent and that if she reported her abuse, he would also sexually assault R.W. On one occasion, Brown strangled G.W until she urinated herself and then made her mop up the urine.

R.W testified that Brown engaged in multiple incidents of vaginal penetration with his fingers; once in bed with Brown, he would touch her breasts, buttocks and vagina. R.W documented her abuse in a diary which her mother eventually found and Brown subsequently moved out of the home.

Norman Aviles (age at offense, 20; age at arrest, 44), a congregation elder attached to the Lancaster East Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Lancaster West Spanish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, used his position of trust as an elder of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to prey on vulnerable children in his religious community, to sexually molest at least three minor females, including two female minors against whom her perpetrated felony sexual acts, between  the period June 1, 1998 and December 31, 1998. Aviles was able to gain the trust of several parents in the congregation and was permitted extensive access to congregational minor females.

Two of his victims who are twin sisters (J.B and J.C) testified that their religiously devote Jehovah’s Witnesses mother and a single parent who was very subservient to men in the Jehovah’s Witness community, allowed Aviles to stay at their home in 1998 as a trusted member of the said community. J.B also believed that Aviles was a distant relative.

Their mother worked the night shifts at Wal-Mart to make ends meet and the twins were left alone with Aviles. It was during this solitary time that Aviles groped their bodies, penetrated the labia of their vaginas whilst he was in their home. J.B and J.C was about  five (5) to six (6) years old when Aviles began to sexually assault them. After Aviles moved out, the twins informed their mother about the abuse. J.B explained to the Grand Jury that her mother dismissed the allegations as she was working hard to maintain a good standing in her religious community  and therefore did not want to accuse a fellow member of wrongdoing.

By 2004 Norman Aviles was married and a congregation elder with children of his own. He also provided living accommodations to his 3rd victim (J.R), her mother and two sisters. J.R testified that at the age of ten,  Aviles was showing her a lot of affection and attention, as she began developing at an early age. On one occasion Alviles groped her breasts and then told her that by not wearing a bra, she was “tempting men” and it was “her fault”.

Alviles would also have “wrestling” sessions with J.R during which he would grope her breasts and genitals. Additional unwanted touching began happening as a pattern of criminal conduct by Aviles and J.R would become increasingly resistant.

J.R was friends with the twin sisters (J.B and J.C) mentioned earlier. On one occasion when all three were together, they each disclosed the assaults they have suffered at the hands of Aviles. The February 2023 Presentment state that “J.R suffered an additional sexual assault by a member of another congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2009 when she was 15 years old”, hinting that a 10th arrest is coming soon.

The Presentment also states that “Aviles has made statements that if he committed the acts as alleged, he does not remember doing so”. Norman Aviles attempted to evade police custody by fleeing the United States mainland and was later “arrested in Puerto Rico on February 9, 2023 as a fugitive from justice in the state of Pennsylvania. He was subsequently handed over to US Marshals personnel for extradition to be processed”. (The Shadow News, Puerto Rico)

Editor’s Notes

The Presentment for these criminal offenses does not state the role of the elders of the respective congregations nor does it outline the role and criminal liability of the Legal and Service Departments of the Jehovah’s Witnesses New York Headquarters. Therefore my comments would be limited to the following.

Given that these offenses are now coming to light some 33 years after, it is clearly evident that no responsible adult never reported these criminal offenses to the police or Child Protection Services.

If the alternative never existed – if there was no 49th Investigating Grand Jury of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, how long would it have taken for these children who are now grown adults to get justice? How long would it have taken for these Jehovah’s Witness monsters under a child’s bed, to be held accountable before a court of law?

These criminal charges leaves many unanswered questions as to the ability and reliability of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their Governing Body to protect children and reduce the risk of further sexual abuse of children in their community.

Anyone with information regarding child sexual abuse should make a report to ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313, and anyone with additional information regarding these cases should make a report to the Office of Attorney General’s (Pennsylvania) hotline at 888-538-8541.

Update

February 22nd 2023 – In a recent interview on the YouTube Channel, ExJW Critical Thinker, Mark O’Donnell disclosed that the ALL the congregations in the State of Pennsylvania have been subpoenaed regarding child sexual abuse documents in their possession from January 1987 to September 2019 and that a litigation hold has been placed on the said documents. All child sexual abuse documents must be handed over to the State of Pennsylvania.

 According to Litigation Holds: Ten Tips in Ten Minutes by Stephanie F. Stacy of Baylor, Evnen, Curtiss, Grimit & Witt, LLP,

A litigation hold is a written directive  advising custodians of certain documents and electronically-stored information (“ESI”) to preserve potentially relevant evidence in anticipation of future litigation. Also called “preservation letters” or “stop destruction requests,” these communications advise of the possibility of future litigation and identify relevant documents and ESI, which should be preserved. The terms “Litigation Hold Letter” and “Litigation Hold Notice” are used interchangeably to describe written requests from adversaries designed to trigger the duty to preserve relevant evidence…”

Mark O’Donnell further disclosed that it is a criminal offense for any congregation elder to tamper with the said child sexual abuse documents. He also stated that Watchtower has hired legal counsel to sift through the child sexual abuse documents one congregation at a time. The legal counsel is the same law firm that represented the Catholic Church when they were the subject of subpoena from the Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania.

Related Media

Press Release (Text) – February 7th 2023 – Acting Attorney General Henry Announces Charges Against Five Men for Sexual Abuse of Children Across Pennsylvania Presentment of Offenses – February 7th 2023 – Acting Attorney General Henry Announces Charges Against Five Men for Sexual Abuse of Children Across Pennsylvania Press Release (Text) – October 27th 2022 – AG Shapiro Announces Charges Against Four Men for Sexual Abuse of Children Across Pennsylvania Presentment of Offenses – October 27th 2022 – AG Shapiro Announces Charges Against Four Men for Sexual Abuse of Children Across Pennsylvania

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Lester Somrah

Lester Somrah writes about the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses on his social media platforms and was baptized as a member in 1998.

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