‘You ruined my life’ abused student tells former church youth group leader
COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. — The man who once led a church youth group has pleaded guilty to committing sex crimes against children he met through the organization.
Jeffrey Clark, 46, entered a guilty plea on three counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery and two counts of Indecent Acts with Child by Custodian, Monday morning in a packed Colonial Heights courtroom.
A judge sentenced Clark to 60 years in prison. Forty-seven years of that prison sentence was suspended.
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.
A 21-year-old college student, who said Clark abused him as a child, looked Clark in the eye when he told Clark the former youth group leader ruined his life.
“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.”
The man said he was 13-year-old when he met Clark at Immanuel Baptist Church in Colonial Heights. The abuse started at age 15.
“It took a while for me to realize what had happen to me — he had brainwashed me,” the victim said. “I stepped up [and came forward recently] when I realized other children were involved.”
The man told Clark he has thought about suicide — as a result of the abuse.
“I hope you know that,” he told Clark in court.
Clark was arrested last summer when police said he inappropriately touched another boy at his Chester home.
Since that arrest, two more people contacted investigators with similar stories, police said. The incidents occurred during the past two years and also involved children Clark met through church, investigators added.
The first to come forward was a juvenile, the second was a juvenile at the time of the alleged incident but is now an adult, police said.
“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.
She said 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.”