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Friday, January 19, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor sentenced to 20 years for child sex-abuse

GREENWOOD, Mo. (ABP) -- In what the detective investigating it described as Missouri's biggest clergy sex-abuse to date, Shawn Davies, a 33-year-old former music and youth minister, was sentenced Jan. 12 to 20 years in prison for molesting children at First Baptist Church of Greenwood, Mo.

Davies was convicted of 25 counts of abuse dating from 2003. Charges included statutory sodomy, furnishing pornographic material to minors, supplying liquor to minors, sexual misconduct with a child under the age of 14, use of a child in sexual performance and endangering the welfare of a child.

Under a plea-bargain deal, Davies will serve the 20 years as concurrent sentences for crimes committed in Missouri and Kentucky.

Davies was earlier convicted of molesting children at three Kentucky Baptist churches. He had been serving jail time in Kentucky when authorities returned him to Jackson County, Mo., last year.

A sheriff's office in Kentucky began investigating Davies in 2001 after a boy told deputies his youth minister had shown him pornographic movies.

Police started the Missouri investigation in July 2005 after another boy came forward with charges of sexual molestation. All told, seven boys connected with the Greenwood church were abused, according to Greenwood detective Robert Leslie. Leslie said at least 13 victims total have come forward with allegations, including children in Missouri, Kentucky and Michigan.

"This man is a predator," Leslie said. "He is going to be a cancer to society unless he is locked up. I'm sure there are still other victims of Shawn's out there."

None of the victims were present at the sentencing, although Leslie said Davies apologized to some of the victims' parents who were in the courtroom.

Davies went to prison in December of 2005, but KCTV-5, the local CBS affiliate, ran an investigative story on the case a few months later. It indicated Davies may have abused at least two more boys at the Greenwood church before senior pastor Mike Roy fired him.

Lee Orth, chairman of the church's litigation committee, said KCTV's claim to have broken the story of new abuse was "total nonsense."

"The church right away took steps…as soon as this broke," he said. "Everybody was open about it. The reason why there wasn't a lot of talk about it was because of the victims," who were present in church services before the abuse was announced.

He said the investigation was “kind of low-key, but it was not hidden. It was talked about in the open. It was not at all swept [under] the rug."

Orth said the church fully cooperated with authorities and made professional counseling available to anyone who wanted it. The abuse was a tragedy for Davies' family and for the church, he said.

Leslie maintains he has reason to believe Roy may have known about some improprieties before he fired Davies, but Roy has declined to talk with authorities.

"It was mishandled," Orth said of Roy's decision not to talk. "Mike felt bad because it happened on his watch. He felt bad about that."

Roy hired Davies to lead music at the 165-year-old Greenwood church in 2003. They had known each other since 1998, when they both attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Roy, who has since left the Greenwood church, could not be reached for comment on this story. Bobby Albers, First Baptist's associate pastor, was unavailable for comment. Orth said a search committee has been formed to find a new pastor.

At the time the TV station publicized the case, David Clippard, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, said his organization has no standard practice for dealing with clergy sexual abuse. But he noted that the MBC does help churches run background checks on employees.

"We have equipped our churches with the tools and the forms and the questions," Clippard said. "We have gone to great lengths to provide our churches with information on how to do background checks."

Ultimately, however, the individual church is accountable for its hiring policies, he added.

Leslie said officials have not launched a criminal investigation to determine if church leaders are guilty of harboring Davies after they knew about the abuse.

Still, several of the churches where Davies worked before being hired in Greenwood were open about his sexual problems, Leslie said. After obtaining a copy of Davies' resume and calling references listed there, Leslie said church leaders told him they were forthcoming in warning others about Davies' addiction to pornography and the fact that he "didn't work well with children."

But while past employers did not give Davies favorable job references, Davies had no problem continuing to get church jobs, Leslie said.

"It always hits the papers when a female teacher has sex with 14- or 13-year-old boys, but when a pastor sexually abuses … young boys, it's kept quiet," Leslie said. "If the first victim had come forward, it's possible that we wouldn't have these other victims today."

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