Man testifies in suit alleging Mormons overlooked sex abuse

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mourners cross temple square on their way to the Conference Center to pay their last respects to LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson during his funeral service in Salt Lake City Friday, January 12, 2018.

Martinsburg, W.Va. • A man accused in a West Virginia lawsuit along with the Utah-based LDS Church of covering up years of child sexual abuse testified he was unaware of the allegations that led to his son’s conviction until he was charged.

The Journal reports Chris Jensen testified Tuesday in Berkeley County Circuit Court in the trial of a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs on behalf of nine families.

Plaintiffs contend The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others knew about 26-year-old member Christopher Michael Jensen’s sexual abuse convictions and allegations but “did nothing to warn and protect” their children.

Christopher Michael Jensen was sentenced in 2013 to 35 to 75 years in prison for sexually abusing two children, ages 3 and 4. Jensen’s father said Tuesday no one told him about those allegations until an August 2012 hearing when his son was charged.

The trial in the lawsuit began last month. It was filed in 2013 by plaintiffs who say they were abused by Christopher Michael Jensen when they were between the ages of 3 and 12.

Chris Jensen testified he would not have left his son alone with other children if he knew his son was a danger to them.

Allegations against Christopher Michael Jensen date back to 2004, when he was arrested at age 13 at his middle school and charged with two felony counts of sexual abuse against two girls, according to court documents. The lawsuit alleges several church members were made aware of abuse incidents multiple times but either did not believe the abused or kept the abuse a secret.

The lawsuit also alleges that abuse continued over the years as no one in the Martinsburg church or his family, which included church leaders, disclosed Jensen’s history of sex offenses.

The church has denied the allegations. Defendants say Christopher Michael Jensen fooled everyone and repeatedly lied to church officials.

Chris Jensen said his son was kicked out of their home at age 18 after a 2010 incident in which he allegedly assaulted a family member. Chris Jensen said it was “the last straw” following a series of issues with their son.

But Chris Jensen said he was never hesitant to leave children at home with his son before the 2010 incident.

According to the lawsuit, Christopher Michael Jensen went on a church mission in 2011. That year his father was deployed with the U.S. military to Iraq and Kuwait. Chris Jensen testified it was difficult to stay in contact with the family while he was deployed and that his wife, Sandra Lee Jensen, “handled everything stateside.”

The church maintains it brought Christopher Michael Jensen back to West Virginia early from his mission when police sought to question him. Chris Jensen said he did not recall asking why his son was sent home.