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Sunday, August 05, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Sex abuse suit against youth pastor

Baptist church leader faces sex abuse suit

LAPORTE -- A lawsuit alleges church youth leader Mark Comford spent two years gaining the trust of a boy, buying him expensive gifts then molesting him, even at the church.

The lawsuit also contends the suspect's grandfather, Jack Cox, the pastor at Faith Baptist Church in LaPorte, turned a deaf ear.

The allegations are contained in a civil lawsuit filed Thursday in LaPorte Circuit Court against Comford, the church and its pastor.

At least $30 million in damages are sought in the lawsuit filed by Michigan City attorney Doug Bernacchi on behalf of one of Comford's alleged victims.

Cox said he had no comment about the lawsuit Friday.

The legal action was taken a week after Comford, 23, a janitor at Purdue North Central, was arrested on seven counts of child molesting and two counts of criminal deviant conduct.

Four boys, ages 9 to 13, were listed as victims in the charging information outlined in all of the counts.

According to the lawsuit, Comford in 2003 as a youth leader at Faith Baptist started hosting sleepovers in the church basement.

Over the next two years, Comford lured the boy with expensive gifts then on several occasions forcibly began fondling him and engaged in other sex acts against the child's will, according to the lawsuit.

More gifts like a $100 pair of shoes and $400 motorized bike followed to pressure the boy to engage in more sexual activity and prevent him from telling.

The lawsuit also states Cox was made aware of the inappropriate contact and heavy attention paid to the child by Comford but failed to act, allowing his grandson to continue as church youth leader.

In 2006, Cox also was notified of the suspected predatory behavior by Child Protective Services, which made their concerns known on several other occasions.

As a result, the lawsuit alleges "substantially more" molestations followed, including some at the church and functions away from the church, according to the lawsuit.