22 Nov 2010

Baptist pastor and three elders charged with failing to report child sex abuse, prosecutor says shameful conspiracy

New Hampshire Union Leader - February 5, 2010

Police: Church officials didn't report sex abuse

By LORNA COLQUHOUN | Union Leader Correspondent

CONWAY – The pastor and three elders of a church in Redstone were arraigned yesterday on charges they failed to report an alleged case of sexual abuse when they became aware of it last summer.

The four men belong to Valley Christian Church, located on East Conway Road in a warehouse it shares with an automotive service shop.

In separate arraignments yesterday afternoon, church Pastor Timothy Dillmuth, 33, of Stowe, Maine, and elders Richard Eland, 61, of Brownfield, Maine; Michael Wedge, 32, of Conway; and Robert Gagnon, 69, of Brownfield were each charged with a single misdemeanor count of violating a state law requiring them to report child abuse to authorities.





"This statute absolves each of us as to whether or not we should report (abuse)," Conway Police Department prosecutor Jessica Hollenkamp said in court. "A conspiracy that blatantly disregards that is not only unlawful, but shameful."

Two women, one of whom identified herself as Dillmuth's wife, were in court, shaking their heads as the charges were read.

According to its Web site, Valley Christian Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist Convention of New England and includes ministries for men, women and children.

Bail for Dillmuth was set at $5,000 cash or corporate surety. In arguing for that amount, Conway police Sgt. Terry Spittler said "the charge is very significant" because of its "conspiratorial nature." All the men are prohibited from having contact with one another, as well as the alleged victim and her family and children younger than 18. Dillmuth and Eland, who coordinates drug and alcohol abuse programs, were concerned about their ability to carry out their church responsibilities.

Judge Pamela Albee told them that if they were to come in contact with one another, it would be a violation of their bail conditions.

Eland's and Gagnon's bail was set at $2,000 cash or surety and Wedge's was set at $1,000 cash or corporate security.

According to the court complaints against the men, they "knowingly have reason to suspect" that a child was a victim of felonious sexual assault and that they "neglected to report" the case to authorities.

Investigators did not say how they became aware of the abuse allegations, but that a separate investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made.

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