COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. – A former church youth group leader has pleaded guilty to committing sex crimes against children he met through the organization.
A 21-year-old college student says 46-year-old Jeffrey Clark started abusing him when he was just 15 years old, WTVR reports.
The two met at Immanuel Baptist Church when the boy was 13 years old.
“I was a happy middle schooler,” he said as he described himself at the time he met Clark. “When I got to high school, had a hard time making friends.”
In a courtroom on Monday, the student looked Clark in the eyes and told him that the former youth group leader ruined his life.
“It took a while for me to realize what had happened to me — he had brainwashed me,” the victim said. “I stepped up [and came forward recently] when I realized other children were involved.”
Clark was arrested in 2015 when police say he inappropriately touched another young boy at his Virginia home, WTVR reports.
After Clark’s arrest, two more people came forward with similar stories.
Investigators say the incidents involved children Clark met through church.
“I was not shocked,” Debbie McCarter, the former Director of Youth at Immanuel Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, said at the time of Clark’s arrest.
McCarter told WTVR that similar allegations involving Clark, split the church five years ago.
“The situation years ago was awful and gut-wrenching, but no charges came about,” she said.
McCarter said she left the church in 2010, while Clark stayed on as a youth volunteer.
“I feel so sorry for the child because there’s no way another child should’ve suffered like this,” she said. “It should not have happened. It should’ve been nipped in the bud a few years ago.”
On Monday, Clark pleaded guilty on three counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery and two counts of Indecent Acts with Child by Custodian, WTVR reports.
A judge sentenced Clark to 60 years in prison. Forty-seven years of that prison sentence was suspended.
According to WTVR, Clark was expected to make similar pleas in a Chesterfield courtroom later Monday afternoon where he was expected to be sentenced to an additional 12 years in prison.