HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania. A Berks County man with links to Bethlehem was among five people accused Friday of sexually abusing children through a Jehovah’s Witnesses church.
14 men were charged as part of a nationwide investigation. For the third time since the investigation began last October, the attorney general held a press conference on Friday announcing new arrests for child sexual abuse.
“Since last fall, we have filed charges against 14 individuals associated with the same religious organization, the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Attorney General Michelle Henry said.
The new ad featured five men accused of gaining the trust of families and abusing their children. Henry named them one by one.
“David Balosa, 62, from Philadelphia…Errol William Hall, 50, from Aldan, Delaware County…Sean Schaeffer, 45, from Butler County…Terry Booth, 57, from Panama City, Florida…Luis Manuel Ayala- Velasquez, 55, from Reading,” Henry said.
The last person, Ayala-Velasquez, was a member of the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bethlehem. Today, the building is undergoing major construction, but Ayala-Velasquez is accused of assaulting a 13-year-old girl, which began back in 2001.
“For years, he would sneak into her bedroom while she was sleeping and rape her. Years later, when the victim became an adult, he raped her again in his home,” Henry said.
According to the affidavit, when Ayala-Velázquez’s victim told church elders about the abuse, they “assured her that Ayala-Velázquez had been excluded from the congregation so she did not have to worry about seeing him at any meetings.” There is no mention of the old people going to the police.
Ayala-Velasquez now faces six charges, including rape, and Henry said she thinks there could be more victims.
“If history teaches us anything, then yes,” said Henry.
We have contacted the Bethlehem Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses for comment, but received no response. The Prosecutor General’s Office is asking anyone who believes they may have been victims to call them. Their hotline number is (888) 538-8541.