Two men say pastor abused them at Fairfax church in the 1990s

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 7, 2010

Two men who say they were molested by former pastor Tommy Shelton when he oversaw a church in Fairfax County in the 1990s testified Thursday that Shelton abused them when he was alone with them.

After the testimony, a judge found probable cause to send five felony sex charges against Shelton to the Fairfax grand jury for possible indictment.

Shelton, 64, was the pastor at Community Church of God at 2500 Gallows Rd. in Dunn Loring from 1995 to 2000. Police said two men came forward in 2008 and said that Shelton had sexually assaulted them when they were boys. Shelton, who lives in Marion, Ky., was arrested in March and charged with two counts of aggravated sexual battery, two counts of indecent liberties with a minor and sodomy.

In a preliminary hearing Thursday in Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, prosecutors reduced the charges against Shelton. Fairfax Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Katherine E. Stott reduced the sodomy charge, which carried a minimum of five years and a maximum of life in prison, to carnal knowledge, which has a range of two to 10 years in prison. Subsequent testimony by the first complaining witness did not fit the sodomy charge.

A count of aggravated sexual battery of that witness, with a sentencing range of one to 20 years in prison, was reduced to custodial indecent liberties, with a range of up to five years in prison. A charge of aggravated sexual battery of the second witness was not reduced.

The first witness is 29. He said that in about 1995, when he was about 14, he went for piano lessons with Shelton at the church, then personal counseling. He said Shelton progressed from fondling him to kissing him to performing oral sex on him, which he said happened twice in the church.

Stott asked the man whether Shelton had said anything about the encounters. "He just always made sure the relationship we had was kept between us," the man said. "He didn't want other people to get jealous of the time we spent together."

The second witness, 24, said Shelton molested him in 1997, when he was 11. He said that he would go on bicycle rides with Shelton and that Shelton would direct him into a wooded area and fondle him.

Chief Fairfax Juvenile Court Judge Kimberly J. Daniel found probable cause for one count of carnal knowledge, one count of aggravated sexual battery and three counts of custodial indecent liberties. The grand jury will hear the case May 17. Shelton is free on $80,000 bond, and Daniel required him to stay in Virginia and stay away from children younger than 15.

Shelton was previously accused by church members of molesting boys at a church where he was the pastor in Illinois in the 1980s. He was not charged because of the statute of limitations in that state, church members said. There is no statute of limitations on such crimes in Virginia.

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