LDS/Mormon Legal cases and case studies

James Adams West Virginia January 1996
This case was filed in Raleigh County Circuit Court in Beckley, WV in January, 1996. Adams was an "Ordained Elder" who sadistically abused his own children, even forcing them to make pornography which was confiscated by the state police. The suit seeks $750 million dollars from the LDS Church and other defendants. The mother who brought the case is identified only as Rebecca Doe. She alleges that LDS Church leaders had known about the abuse since 1989 but did nothing about it until Adams' arrest in 1994. Adams was sentenced to 76 to 185 years in prison. In 1997, the LDS Church sought removal to the United States District Court in Charleston, WV, claiming federal question jursidiction. In the fall, the federal court declined to accept jurisdiction and sent it back to state court. Also in the fall of 1997, the West Virginia Supreme Court, in a 4-1 decision, upheld a trial court ruling that prevented plaintiff's from serving subpoenas on Mormon President Gordon B. Hinckley and other high officials and from seeking detailed statements of LDS Church assets on the grounds they were too "oppressive and burdensome" on the Church.

Arlo Atkin Maricopa County, Arizona 1994
This case arose in Maricopa County, Arizona in 1994. The plaintiff, Ellen LNU (last name unknown) had been molested twice by the time she was fourteen. Confused and distraught, she and her parents turned to Bishops Arlo Atkin and James "Jim" Stapley, the latter of whom is (was) a Mesa City Council member. Atkin took her into his home in Mesa where she would live with him and his family. Two months later Atkin began a sexual relationship with Ellen, following which she attempted suicide. But the relationship continued. Church members became suspicious. She moved back home with her family. A few months later, Ellen was pregnant with Atkin's child; she claimed she had been raped by another person. But her mother found sexually explicit love letters from Atkin to the girl. Atkin pleaded guilty, served 132 days in jail and was ex-communicated. Ellen gave birth to the child and put the baby up for adoption. Atkins violated probation by having contact with Ellen. The current status of this case is unknown.

Eric Patrick "Ricky" Avant Norfolk, Virginia
This case arose in Norfolk, Virginia, Avant was a church cub scout leader. He sodomized eight boys. He had a prior conviction for sodomy, but the church never checked him out and never registered him with Boy Scouts of America which would have run a background check. The LDS Church settled in May 1992 for an undisclosed amount.

Christian Bearnson Los Angeles, California November, 1993
A jury verdict was returned in Los Angeles Superior Court in November, 1993. This case arose in Pomona, California. The jury awarded actual and punitive damages. Shortly after the verdict, the LDS Church settled the case with the plaintiffs for an undisclosed amount and had the file sealed. The perpetrator was a Mormon Church Elder and the plaintiffs were two fourteen-year-old girls. Tammy LNU and Melody LNU were molested by Bearnson at a church-sponsored camp. Evidence was presented that Bishop Bradley Cutler attempted to cover up. Further, there was evidence that two other girls in 1990 had also been molested by Bearnson at a church camp out. The two other girls had gone to the prior Bishop, Robert Wise, who refused to believe their allegations about Bearnson and accused them of making up the allegations to get attention. Wise said, "Chris Bearnson is part of the priesthood and ... nothing like that happens in our church." Wise later denied having made the comment.

Gary Arthur Bishop
In Utah Gary Arthur Bishop sexually tortured and murdered five boys, ages 5-14. He was a Mormon Boy Scout leader.

John Charles Blome Montgomery County, Texas October 1998
This civil case was filed in Montgomery County, Texas and went to jury trial. The case settled for $4 Million after the Mormons were found negligent. A 13 year old boy who was molested by a Mormon Church youth leader in Magnolia Ward was awarded more than his own lawyers sought October 8, 1998. Blome molested many other boys from the same area and in other areas. Sheriff's deputies were upset that the Mormon Bishop tipped Blome to the pending investigation, and he burned evidence before it could be seized. In an earlier case against Blome the Mormon Church was also found negligent.

Steven L. Hammock Salt Lake City, Utah, 1989
This was filed in federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1989. The plaintiff was Michelle Scott, and the case went to a bench trial in October, 1994. The judge awarded damages in "an amount still to be determined." The LDS Church was not a defendant in the case because this case went to the Utah Supreme Court on the issue of the breadth of the priest-penitent privilege. The court held that the privilege included all conversations and information received by a Bishop from a member regardless of whether it was confessional. The LDS Church was not required to disclose any information Hammock had divulged to them. It is unclear what evidence of knowledge on the part of the church the plaintiff had. Michelle Scott had been adopted by the Hammocks', and he abused her from age 6 to age 13.

Cecil B. Jacobsen M.D.
This is the infamous infertility specialist who was caught using his own sperm to impregnate his female patients. The story came out when several children were born with the same birth defect. He has since moved to Utah. The motive for his actions may have been the wacky Mormon belief that men are to have as many children as possible to increase their posterity in the afterlife when they will rule other planets in heaven.

Robert Gene Metcalf Prescott, Arizona 1979
This case arose in Prescott, Arizona and was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court in May 1993. In 1979, Gail Metcalf walked in on her husband, Gene Metcalf, and witnessed him having anal sex with a 13 year old boy who had been residing with them. He was sentenced to prison for six years for his misconduct with the boy as well as with Gail's children. She divorced him and the Church excommunicated him. His parental rights were not terminated, but a six-month no contact order was entered following his release from prison. In 1987, Gail Metcalf developed a brain tumor and needed extensive medical treatment. She contacted her local Bishop to discuss what will happen to her chldren while she is hospitalized. Her civil lawsuit alleges that she was ordered by her Bishop and the Stake President to send her children to live with Gene Metcalf and they would monitor the situation for her making certain the children were safe. She sent them to live with him for eight months when they were molested again. At his sentencing, there was heavy lobbying by politicians connected to the Church in defense of Gene Metcalf. Local Bishops involved and who may be named defendants are Grant Shumway and Don Excell. The case was resolved with an undisclosed settlement on behalf of the Metcalf children.

Ralph Neeley Jefferson County, Texas 1995
This case arose in Jefferson County, Texas (Port Arthur). In January, 1995, the Church settled for an undisclosed amount with the parents of an eight-year-old girl who was repeatedly molested at a Mormon ward (chapel) by Neeley. Neeley was a Mormon priesthood member and his Bishop knew about the allegations but failed to report it. Neeley's acts against the girl were so gross he got life in the criminal trial. Church leaders claim they encouraged Neeley to turn himself in to the police. John Charles Blome (case noted above) and Neeley were friends. Neeley went to prison first. This lesson of not reporting is one the Mormon Bishops might have learned the first time around since both cases involved the same Mormon authorities. Once again they allowed more children to be hurt while protecting the predatory pedophile. The case settled for an undisclosed amount.

John D. Parkinson, M.D. Stake President in Fairfield, California
This case took place in Fairfield, California and was filed in Solano County Superior Court. John D. Parkinson was a Mormon Stake President who used his position of trust as a doctor and religious leader to molest and misdiagnose women and children who attended the Mormon Church. A female member became concerned about his care and collected accounts of his abuse and brought them to the Mormon leadership. He was protected by the Church higher authorities and this woman moved away branded as a troublemaker. This allowed him free reign among the membership and it took years to get his license to practice medicine removed. His license was removed in part for diagnosing women with cancer, prescribing chemotherapy, and then claiming he cured them when they did not have cancer in the first place. This did not stop him from practicing medicine however, and he has since been found guilty of practicing medicine without a license and other crimes related to the earlier allegations.

Lloyd Gerald Pond Salt Lake City, Utah, March 1997
This case was filed in Third District Court in Salt Lake City, Utah. Pond was a Mormon Church spokesman, the host and executive producer of "Times and Seasons", a public affairs program of the LDS Church, broadcast nationally and overseas. The program focused on moral and social issues, including child abuse. Pond groomed an eleven year old girl, eventually photographing her nude and molesting her at age 13. He received a plea bargain which was criticized in the press for being too lenient. The bargain was considered special treatment because of his position and connections. A newspaper article from March 2, 1997 discusses the plaintiff's attempts to obtain discovery of the prosecutor's file in the Pond case and the resistance put up by the Salt Lake City District Attorneys office to the civil subpoena.

Richard Kenneth Ray Maricopa County, Arizona 1987
The case was filed in Maricopa County, Arizona about 1987. This case involved molestations of a two year-old girl whom Ray and his wife babysat for a year and a half. The suit alleged negligence for the Church's failure to report Ray to authorities and in counseling offered to Ray. This case was the subject of an Arizona Court of Appeals ruling that the priest penitent privilege waiver did not apply because the perpetrator later confessed to police. The court ordered Mormon Bishops to reveal what Ray had told them about prior molestations. The Church settled the case on January 9, 1990, the day of trial, for an undisclosed amount.

Michael Rex Shean Santa Maria, California
This case arose in Santa Maria, California. Shean was an attorney and Mormon Church leader who used his position as coach, attorney, and religious teacher to groom boys for seduction. The Stake President in the case was an FBI agent, Nolan Phillips, who should have been much more alert to the problem of a predatory pedophile in his flock. The Mormon Church was found negligent and settled for an undisclosed amount.

Peter Brackner Purvis, Mississippi
Lawsuit alleges child molestation in Columbia, Mississippi man who claims he was molested as a child by a Boy Scout leader is suing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Jason Dunaway, 24, is seeking $25 million and claims in his lawsuit that the Mormon church did nothing to prevent sexual attacks on him by scout master Peter Brackner of Purvis. Dunaway said a Mormon leader was told of the alleged sexual misconduct but did nothing. Dunaway was part of a boy scout troop sponsored by the Columbia Mormon church, according to his lawsuit filed Tuesday in Lamar County Circuit Court. He claims in the lawsuit that the molestation began when he was 11 years old in 1985. A similar lawsuit was filed this spring by a relative of Dunaway's. John Clark, a Jackson attorney who has represented the Mormon church, said the church "abhors sexual abuse, spousal abuse, any kind of abuse."

LaVar Withers M.D. Rexburg, Idaho
This case is filed as a class action in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho and arose in Rexburg, Idaho, a Mormon controlled community. The suit does not name the LDS Church as a defendant but names Madison Memorial Hospital, as well as Withers, and Rexburg Medical Center. Over 125 women and children came forward to the Rape Crisis Response Center to tell of his abuse over a thirty year period. Numerous women had told their Bishops of his abuse through the years. Still the Mormon Church protected him and helped with his defense denouncing the women as dissatisfied troublemakers. His criminal sentence was extremely light considering his crimes: Thirty days suspended and a small fine. There were eight children in the criminal case. He preyed upon young women who were away from home for the first time attending the local Mormon college. All the victims, prosecutors, judges, doctors and law enforcement are Mormon, so it is unlikely the LDS Church will be named as a defendant for their negligent acts. This is a case where the County ought to sue the Mormon Church for not reporting. One would think the LDS Church would have learned from this case to report suspected abuse.

Unfortunately, the same LDS Church and the same hospital watched silently as a three month old baby, William Genther, was tortured to death. The child was brought to the hospital eight times with serious injuries and it was never reported to authorities. In one of the news accounts it states that the father's stepmother, Gleneen Genther, reported to church authorities that she feared for the infants life. They did nothing.