Skip to comments.Sex case at camp leads to 2 arrests (Glen St. Mary, FL)
Posted on 07/04/2008 5:22:53 PM PDT by Coleus
An employee of a Baker County home for troubled youths has been arrested on a child abuse charge by deputies documenting evidence of sexual activity between teenage residents. Deputies also arrested an 18-year-old resident of Camp Tracey on a charge of fondling a younger resident, but said sexual acts between the younger teens weren't criminal because they were consensual.
The children's home, located on farmland north of Glen St. Mary, is run by Harvest Baptist Church of Jacksonville. Since 2003, the church has settled a half-dozen lawsuits filed by former residents citing physical and sexual abuse by camp workers and older residents, but Monday's arrest of "dorm father" John Edward Wilson, 46, is the first on a child abuse charge in at least 20 years, Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson said. "This certainly supports the allegations that our clients made," said Miami attorney Joel Magolnick, who represented six former residents in lawsuits against the church. "I'm glad that the Sheriff's Office is investigating the allegations of abuse and taking action."
Wilson's phone was disconnected. He was released from jail on his own recognizance under the condition that he stay away from the camp. He denied the allegations when he turned himself in, but refused to speak further with deputies, an arrest report says. Longtime Harvest pastor Wilford McCormick said he didn't want to comment because the arrests just occurred. The Times-Union reached the father of 18-year-old Benjamin Valentin Lewis of St. Augustine, who also declined comment on his son's charge of lewd and lascivious behavior with a child. Lewis remained in the Baker County jail Wednesday on $3,000 bail. He told deputies in a recorded interview last week that he didn't realize what he is accused of doing was illegal.
(Excerpt) Read more at jacksonville.com ...
I live in Florida, and the only charity I give money to is the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch. They do a great job with kids, and they take in black, white and Hispanic kids. Intially it was only boys, but they branched out to take in girls a few years ago. I get their magazine and I really love what they do - reining and roping, great kid stuff with animal care, etc.
Those words are part of the website description of Camp Tracey, the church-run facility for troubled youth located in northern Baker County. But those idyllic words dont tell the scandals of sexual and physical abuse that have plagued the camp since the 1980s. Camp Tracey Childrens Home was started in 1982 by Rev. Wilford McCormick under the auspices of Harvest Baptist Church in Jacksonville. The camp website calls itself "an integral and inseparable ministry" of Harvest Baptist Church. Six lawsuits by former students have been filed since 2003 against the camp and Harvest Baptist Church citing repeated sexual and physical abuse by staff and senior residents. Five have been settled. One of the cases was voluntarily dismissed for procedural reasons prior to the hearing in front of Circuit Judge Aaron Bowden, according to attorney Joel Magonick, of the De la O, Marko, Magolnick & Leyton law firm in Miami, who has represented each client.
The church has repeatedly denied all allegations. Those lawsuits were not the first time Camp Traceys methods and operations have been in question. Complaints began almost immediately when the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services investigated child abuse allegations in 1983 by three camp runaways. The State Attorneys Office cleared the camp at that time. In 1987, a Baker County Grand Jury issued a report on Camp Tracey after years of physical abuse allegations. Their report criticized the camp for excessive corporal punishment and noted that physical restraints such as ropes and handcuffs were not to be used.
(Scroll down for more information on past allegations and the grand jury report)
Now North Florida News Daily is the first to break the new allegations of sex acts between students and abuse from a long-time camp employee that have brought the camp back into the media glare. Two have been arrested on unrelated charges after a month long investigation by the Baker County Sheriff's Office. The recent trouble when BCSO investigators began looking into allegations of sex crimes involving several students at the camp. During the course of the investigation, it was discovered that seven juvenile students ages 14 to 17 were possibly engaged in sexual activity with each other. Legally, this is not in violation of the law since the boys were all juveniles and sex was consensual. But, during questioning, another student named Ben Lewis, was discovered to be 18 making him an adult legally and making any sex acts with the other students unlawful.
Lewis, a student at Camp Tracey for several years, was questioned about the allegations and admitted he had engaged in sexual activity with a 14-year-old juvenile. Lewis stated that he and the other student had been discussing the idea of having sex for a few days and one day while working on the farm they "went into the woods, removed each others pants and proceeded to masturbate each other." Lewis stated that he "really didnt see what the big problem was" and said he was unaware that this was illegal. He was arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious conduct on a minor.
While interviewing the juvenile residents regarding the sex allegations, it was revealed that the dorm father, John Edward Wilson had been abusive to students. Several of the students said Wilson, 46, would become physically physically abusive when he became angry. One victim reported that just a couple of days before "Brother John" came over to him and started choking him before slamming his head into the wall. Others told similar stories. The police reports notes that a boy who witnessed the attack stated that Wilson had an anger problem that all of the juvenile residents are aware of and when he gets angry with his wife or one of the boys, he will take it out on all of them.
Wilson was investigated for nearly identical charges in 2003 when his adoptive son ran away and contacted the BCSO citing abuse. Those charges were deemed unfounded and were not pursued. A warrant for Wilson was signed by Judge Joey Williams on June 30 and Wilson was taken into custody. He denied the claims of abuse, but refused to answer any questions until he had a lawyer. He has since been released from jail on his own recognizance under the condition that he stay away from the camp. However, Rev. Wilford McCormick, the man they all just call "Preacher" told a reporter that Wilson will continue to work at the camp. Department of Children and Family Services was contacted regarding the abuse and it is expected they will also conduct an investigation.
The lawsuits detailing sexual and physical abuse filed by former residents of the facility all raise similar abuse allegations about Camp Tracey.
**While there have been a total of six cases filed by attorney Joel Magonick against Harvest Baptist Church (d/b/a Camp Tracy) only five of those cases were settled. One of the cases was voluntarily dismissed for procedural reasons prior to the hearing in front of Judge Bowden.
GRAND JURY REPORT
The 1987 Baker County Grand Jury report on Camp Tracey noted there was no qualified medical personnel on the premises and emergency medical procedures were inadequate and "woefully lacking." The report also criticized that there was no qualified physical, mental, or psychological evaluation upon admission.
In addition the Grand Jury report cited:
"There is no adequate system in operation to document medical injures for the review diagnoses or record keeping of cases of suspected physical abuse of residents.
There is no procedure as does exist for other child and youth facilities for contacting of the state of Floridas Health and Rehabilitative Service (HRS) Agency in cases actual or suspected child abuse on resident of Camp Tracey. The attitude of the management and staff of Camp Tracey is both resistant and opposed to this necessary protective review of the program operation.
There is no individual knowledgeable nor trained in health or nutrition to review or oversee the preparation of proper meals.
The educational program at Camp Tracey is sub-standard and frequently resulted in loss of grade matriculation of students when returning back to public schools. This has had detrimental consequences to the students.
More disturbing findings noted that children residing at Camp Tracey should not be forced to work for private citizens and runaways should not be labeled "misfits" or given GI style haircuts as a disciplinary action. The report found that physical restraints such as ropes or handcuffs should never be used as "has been done at Camp Tracey."
Perhaps this will meet most if not all of your stringent criteria for caring.
Watch out, your straw man is showing!!!
1 - Please show where I even remotetly indicated that I did not care. If you go back to the other thread, you will note that I often use the words disgusting and ugly for sexual predators who call themselves clergy.
2 - This is not even close to the criteria I asked you for. Here is a slighly modified version of that criteria that I asked you to give proof that the scandal was as widestrpead in non-RCC church systems as it is in the RCC that you stated it was. I believe this is my third or maybe fouth time I have listed it. I hope you can read through it more thoroughy and understand it this time. Here is the criteria on how you can prove your statement:
Can you please give facts, FR links and article links that show the widespread, all the way up the corporate level church system that covers up and protects the abusers for years and years and years, knowing what the abusers continue to do, and even moving them to new congregations, knowing that they will likely repeat the abuse, knowing that they are protecting the sinners and not the innocent flock? And can you provide that same information for those church systems that only acted to remove the abusers from the presence of children because they were "found out" and the masses starting getting upset? If you can show that on a widespread basis, as is clearly what happened in the RCC, THEN, and only THEN, can you rightly accuse the protties of doing the same thing.
I will again request that you do not ping me, or have others ping me with individual pastors who are abusers. Second request on that.
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