Noel Anderson, a 23-year-old former Sunday school teacher with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in McKinney, Texas, was sentenced to 50 years in prison without the possibility of parole for molesting multiple children who were left in his care starting in his teenage years.
While Anderson taught 7- and 8-year-olds, authorities say his five victims ranged in age from 1 ½ to 6 years old, CBS reported.
In his confession, Anderson said he targeted children he thought would not disclose his abuse — infants he babysat for fellow parishioners.
"We're grateful for these brave children, as their courage helped lock up a serial child predator," Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis announced Thursday, according to the McKinney Courier Gazette.
Before authorities began investigating Anderson for abuse just over a year ago, he enjoyed a good reputation among his church community.
“He was an outstanding youth in our church,” a concerned parent with knowledge of the case told CBSDFW in 2018, “the gold standard for what you would want your son to grow up to be.”
McKinney police said it was a young child who rang the alarm on Anderson’s abuse. The child reportedly saw a picture of Anderson and said “I don’t like him.” A parent eventually asked the child why and what the child revealed shattered the trust of many in the church community.
“She indicated that Noel had touched her in her privates,” a church member told CBS.
An 8-year-old girl whose parents said she contemplated suicide was the only one of Anderson’s victims to testify against him in court this week.
Her parents said two weeks before she was set to testify against Anderson who confessed to molesting her since she was a baby, her parents had to call for emergency help to prevent her from taking her life, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The girl who testified against him was just 18 months old when Anderson masturbated as he changed her diapers. He forced her to perform sex acts on him as she grew older until she was 6.
"This is what turns him on," prosecutor Nick Lawrence told jurors, pointing to a baby photo of the girl in a yellow onesie, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Anderson confessed to police that he tried to stop abusing children but he was asked to babysit a previous victim after returning from a mission trip and could not help himself because he had “history” with her.
"What kind of 'history' can you possibly have with a 6-year-old?" chief felony prosecutor Geeta Singleton asked the jury which convicted him. "He used these babies to live out his own sexual fantasies."
While most of Anderson’s victims don't remember being molested, many of their family members say their relationship with the church where the abuse occurred has been damaged.
“I have lost all trust and hope,” one church member told CBS. “Just bewildered, shocked.”
The jury in the case deliberated for two days before coming back with a verdict.