by Monte Sahlin
By AT News Team, December 19, 2013
A deacon from a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nampa, Idaho, was arrested last week and booked into the Canyon County Jail, according to the Associated Press and newspapers and television news programs in the Boise area. He is charged with "lewd conduct with a minor under 16 years of age" and has evidently admitted to wrong behavior, according to police reports filed with the court. His name is Alexander G. Garcia according to news reports and court documents.
It is unclear which local church in Nampa was the site of the alleged events. There are two local churches in the community affiliated with the denomination's Idaho Conference; an English-language congregation with 394 members and a Spanish-language congregation with 263 members. Nampa is a suburb of Boise and the location of Pacific Press, a major institution of the denomination's General Conference.
According to reports of police detectives filed by the prosecutor and made public by the news media in Boise, on Sabbath, July 20, lured a 12-year-old girl into the storage room at the church during an afternoon potluck. He told her that he had something "cool" to show her. The girl later told police that in the room Garcia touched her inappropriately. She left the storage room and told her grandmother what had happened.
Police talked to the family and the child in July. Although it is unclear the precise date of the police interviews, a local blogger has said that "prosecutors said church officials had been very cooperative throughout the investigation."
Police detectives interviewed Garcia on August 20. He admitted being in the room with the child and said he did hug and kiss her, but did not consider that inappropriate behavior because that was something he did all the time. Later he admitted to misbehavior. "Garcia said that in 30 years he had never taken anyone into the room and he knew nothing good would happen when he took [the girl] into the room," the detective's report stated. According to the Idaho Statesman, Garcia "went on to claim that Satan was also in the storage room and may have taken control of his body."
A preliminary court hearing has been scheduled for December 24. The Humanist Examiner reported the incident as sexual abuse of a child and local newspapers have reported that if convicted, Garcia could face life in prison.
A retired church administrator told Adventist Today "this kind of thing happens too often. That is why it is so important for pastors and church boards to insist on the screening of volunteers working in church offices." The North American Division Working Policy requires that church members who work with children in local church ministries and other programs be screened through an appropriate background checking organization and that church officers promptly report any incident that involves inappropriate behavior.