Close to a dozen males have come forward to accuse a West Virginia man and former church youth volunteer of sexually abusing them as minors.
While the West Virginia State Police has not disclosed the man's name, Westminster Presbyterian Church has confirmed that the suspect "has volunteered in various capacities for the church, including with youth trips that required chaperones."
The church's senior pastor, Jonathan Rockness, also claimed that while the Bluefield's church had alerted authorities at the beginning of the year, the police initially did not find enough information to prosecute him.
"In June, the police reported back to us that they would not be pursuing the case, as the behavior we reported was inappropriate, but not actionable," Rockness said in a statement shared with WOAY Television. "Even though the legal authorities declined to pursue the case any further, the leadership of the church was not satisfied that we had gotten to the bottom of the situation."
Following the police's decision, the church subsequently suspended the suspect from church-related activities beyond attending services and launched their own investigation. Over the course of its inquiry, authorities have confirmed that around 12 males came forward to accuse the volunteer of sexual abuse, starting as early as 1986.
The victims' ages at the time of the alleged sexual abuses ranged from pre-teens to teenagers.
After concluding its own report, the church reported this information back to the police who decided they now had enough information to pursue it further.
While the current suspect has not yet been charged, WVNSTV reported that he could be accused of "sexual abuse, sexual assault and sexual abuse by a custodian."
The church reiterated that it has "been fully cooperative with the authorities and will continue to be, as we are committed to uncovering the truth and seeing justice met."
"We also hope and pray for healing and wholeness for any potential victims in this situation. We are devastated for them and their families," Rockness wrote.