OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A 64-year-old former elder is out of jail after being accused of luring young girls to his car with candy and molesting them at a metro church.
Mulugeta Legesse has been charged with two counts of indecent or lewd acts with a child under 16.
According to police, the victims’ parents told detectives they were shocked. Now, investigators believe there are more victims and are asking for anyone involved to come forward.
“In Oklahoma, 90 percent of the time children are abused by someone they know, love and trust,” CEO of the CARE Center Stacy McNeiland said.
Police say that trust was broken at a church near Hefner and Western in Oklahoma City.
Legesse is now facing two felony counts involving girls as young as seven years old.
The 64-year-old is a former elder at St. George Ethiopian Orthodox Church. He is now accused of preying on children at Sunday School.
“Pedophiles know how to cloak themselves into normalcy,” McNeiland said.
Stacy McNeiland, CEO of the CARE Center, says Legesse’s techniques were textbook.
According to court documents, Legesse lured children to his car in the parking lot, promised candy and then sexually abused the girls. Legesse would leave them with a stern warning, “If you tell your parents, they will beat you.”
“What you have described is classic grooming behavior,” McNeiland said. “Children are taught to respect adults.”
The girls’ parents called police about the alleged crime back in summer 2019. However, Legesse, who is a father himself, wasn’t charged or arrested till a year later.
KFOR stopped by his house and a woman claiming to be his wife answered the door.
“What is your response to the charges filed against your husband and then him bonding out?” KFOR reporter Peyton Yager asked.
“I don’t know right now,” the woman said.
The woman went on to say her husband wasn’t home and then closed to door on us.
Meanwhile, McNeiland says she’s worried this crime is becoming too common.
“It’s imperative parents are hyper-vigilant and always know where their children are at,” McNeiland said.
Legesse is no longer associated with the church. As for why it took so long for his arrest, District Attorney David Prater says he’s unable to comment on an open investigation.
Legesse’s next court date is set for Sept. 28.
The CARE Center encourages all parents to contact their services for training courses.
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