January 07, 2005

Child abuse cases allege Jehovah's Witness cover-up

Napa News

Friday, January 7, 2005

Register Staff Writer

A bundle of child abuse cases may finally get off the ground at a key pre-trial hearing in Napa Superior Court this morning.

As many as 11 lawsuits filed in six counties contend that Jehovah's Witnesses covered up acts of child molestation by church officials. Today's hearing is set to determine how the court should go forward with handling the cases and even whether an attorney's potential life-threatening illness could hold up progress.

Two cases involve three alleged Napa victims who are suing Napa Jehovah's Witness Congregations and other Jehovah's Witness groups, claiming high-ranking elders and church policymakers were negligent in supervising one church leader and concealed records for more than 20 years.

Charissa Welch, 35, and two women partially identified in court papers, Nicole D., 32, and Tabitha H., 30, claim Edward Bedoya Villegas, who was an elder in the congregation, forced them to perform oral sex on him starting more than 20 years ago. Welch and Tabitha H. said Villegas penetrated them with his fingers, while Tabitha H. also charges she was raped by Villegas.

Posted by kshaw at January 7, 2005 10:57 PM