A young man admitted that he sexually assaulted children while he was an instructor at a Mormon church in Texas, authorities said.
Police said Noel Anderson, 22, abused four children between the ages of 2 and 6 when he was a Primary instructor at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Dallas suburb of McKinney, Texas. The crimes happened over seven years, during which Anderson met the children through church meetings and other activities, according to the McKinney Police Department.
Anderson, who is married, has been charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, a first-degree felony, and indecency with a child, a second-degree felony. He was arrested last month and is being held on a $200,000 bond, online records show. His attorney did not immediately return a call Monday.
Police suspect that there might have been more victims and are urging parents to speak with their children if they had been in Anderson’s care.
The Washington Post was unable to reach the McKinney congregation Monday, but church officials said in a statement to NBC affiliate KXAS-TV that they are cooperating with investigators.
“Children are precious, and our hearts go out to the victims and their families. We stand ready to offer love, emotional support and professional counseling for them. We are grateful for their courage in reporting this to law enforcement, and we support the efforts of legal authorities to ensure justice is served in these cases. … Anyone who engages in such behavior is rightfully subject to criminal prosecution and will also face discipline from the church, including loss of membership.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, has several congregations around the country and worldwide. The Texas case comes as the church faces other allegations of sexual abuse.
In West Virginia, families sued church officials for failing to act while a once-trusted member of a tightknit Mormon community preyed on children. Michael Jensen is serving a lengthy prison sentence for sexually abusing two boys while babysitting them. But six families believe the much larger Mormon hierarchy in the state should also be held accountable.
The lengthy legal battle that began in 2013 ended last week, after the parties reached a settlement, the details of which were not disclosed.
In Utah, a former Mormon mission leader was accused of trying to rape a young woman more than 30 years ago. Joseph Bishop admitted that he took the woman to a small room at the Missionary Training Center in Provo and asked if he could see her breasts, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The woman told police that Bishop kissed her and tore her clothes, but she managed to escape.
The allegations resulted in petitions calling for an end to one-on-one interviews between church officials and young Mormons. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that church leaders have since unveiled new rules allowing a parent or another adult to sit in when church members are interviewing or meeting with women and children.