Pastor Mike Lewis of the New Life Center in Cedar Grove sent a letter to local media outlets Tuesday night. In the letter, he says he was one of the victims of Sandy Martin Cook more than ten years ago when he was a teenager.
Cook was and still is the pastor at the Shrewsbury Church of God.
Cook was arrested by West Virginia State Police on Monday. He's charged with 3 counts of sexual abuse by a person of trust, and 44 counts of sexual assault in the 3rd degree.
During his arraignment in Kanawha County magistrate court, Cook said, "I'm scared to death."
According to the criminal complaint, the alleged crimes happened around 1994 -- and so far, three alleged victims have come forward in the case. All were between 13-16 years old at the time.
One victim stated he developed a close relationship with Cook -- and that Cook told him it was "normal for father figures to perform/receive sexual acts on each other and that the performing of such acts was part of growing up."
Another victim told police Cook performed sexual acts on him during two sleepovers at Cook's house, according to the criminal complaint. That victim told his parents, who reported the matter to the church; but the matter was later withdrawn during a meeting at church in Chesapeake "for conflicting reasons" and was not reported to police at the time.
A trooper verified the victim's statement about the meeting and the fact that the issue was withdrawn.
Investigators say the suspect's actions are similar in each case.
"Each of the 3 victims live separate lives and one lives in another state," as stated in the criminal complaint. "However, each of their allegations provide details of the intricacies of Cook's conduct that are exactly the same."
Police say they first learned of this case when one of the alleged victims came forward on August 3. According to investigators, the first person led them to Mike Lewis, and he led to the third victim in the case.
The criminal complaint states that a majority of the alleged crimes happened either at Cook's home in Belle, or in one of Cook's cars.
Cook is currently out of jail on $150,000 bond. It has also been learned that he works full-time as the head at the the cardiac cath lab at Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) Memorial Hospital.
State Police say more victims may be out there. They urge you to come forward if you have any more information in this case. Trooper M.J. Napier is handling the investigation: (304) 558-7778.
PASTOR'S LETTER TO THE COMMUNITY:
Here is a letter Pastor Mike Lewis wrote to the public after he says he was sexually abused by Sandy Cook more than ten years ago:
From the Office of Pastor Michael A. Lewis
Senior Pastor of New Life Center
Cedar Grove, WV 25039
To Whom It May Concern,
Four weeks ago my world was rocked when State Police investigators contacted me concerning allegations of sexual abuse by a local Church of God pastor. My name was given to investigators by another victim who had suspicions that I may have suffered the same abuse that he did over a decade ago. For thirteen years I have hidden this secret in the deepest part of my being, never to let it out. Over these past years I have shared this secret with no one. Not my wife, parents, family, or leaders. I assumed that my abuse had been limited to me alone and that no one else was suffering what I suffered. My assumptions were wrong.
I have since learned that multiple victims have come forward seeking justice for what was taken from them by a person who was suppose to protect and guide. I now know that I was not alone and I have a right & responsibility to speak up. I would have taken this secret to my grave, but when Investigators approached me and asked the question… ‘Are you also a victim’, I could not lie. The fact is, I am a victim of sexual abuse, suffered at the hands of this so called pastor who is in serious need of help.
My abuse started around the age of thirteen and continued for around four years. I was too afraid to speak up or speak out. I was told by this so called leader that these things must happen to me in order for God to use my life to make a difference. As a young boy with no church background and not many possessions, I was suckered into this web of lies and deceit. As I matured I realized that his excuses for abuses were all trumped up lies and that my relationship with God was between me and God alone, and did not require a third person.
The realization of the fact that this persons sexual abuses were brought to the attention of other local Church of God pastors, as well as the State Overseer of the Church of God, and that it was swept under a rug and not reported to the authorities is simply appalling. To think that the abuse I suffered and the victims that came after me should not have been, had the Church of God denomination followed the law and reported this first allegation in 1994. They failed to follow the law and I stand here today, with many other victims asking why.
I give praise to God because unlike many victims, my abuse did not stop me from reaching my goals. God has called me to His work and I am thankful that God brought me through the difficulties I weathered as a young teen. My life is not messed up. I have the greatest wife & family on the planet, the greatest church family and the greatest circle of friends anyone could ask for, and it is all because I stayed focused on Jesus. The abuse that I suffered was simply a trick of enemy to try and stop the plans that God has for my life – and he failed, and failed miserably!
I was not the first victim to come forward in this investigation, and I will not be the last. My sincere prayers are with the other victims and their families today. I know what you are going through and I encourage you to speak up if you haven’t already. The way I view this situation is simple – the hard part is over, meaning that the abuse is behind us. He can never touch us again, and it is our responsibility to make sure that he can never touch anyone else again either.
A spokesman for the Church of God's international offices in Cleveland, Tennessee, says Cook has been placed on administrative leave.