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Thursday, February 22, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

'America's Most Wanted' pastor

A former Herndon pastor convicted of sodomy and statutory rape has made the list of the "America's Most Wanted" television show.

Jack E. Clark, former assistant pastor of a Pentecostal Church that once owned property at the intersection of Park and Monroe streets in Herndon, was listed as a "Fugitive From Justice" on the Feb. 17 airing of the TV program, according to the show's Web site.

On April 16, 1996, Herndon Police charged Clark with forcible sodomy and statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl whom he knew from his congregation.

Lt. Jerry Keys of the Herndon Police Department remembers the case, and Clark himself, well. Keys said that Clark grew up in Herndon and that Keys came in contact with him occasionally.

"He seemed very gung-ho, very religious," Keys said. Keys was working as part of the Criminal Investigative Section when Clark was originally arrested.

Sgt. Dennis Royal of the Herndon Police headed that investigation. Royal said the victim originally contacted an aunt who contacted police.

"It was an ongoing investigation," Royal said. "It wasn't a one-time event."

Clark was later convicted on both charges. But, according to court records, Clark's attorney filed for an appeal in June 1997 based on the fact that Clark had been formally denied a motion calling for an independent medical examination of the victim.

In a 1999 opinion by the Court of Appeals of Virginia, the convictions were reversed and Clark was granted a rehearing.

According to court records, during the rehearing, "the judgment of the trial court was affirmed without opinion by an evenly divided court, and the opinion previously rendered by the panel was withdrawn."

The case eventually made its way to the Virginia Supreme Court, where, in 2001, it was ruled that Clark's original convictions would stand.

But, by that time, Clark's whereabouts were unknown. His father, also a pastor, owned the church property and sold it to post his son's bond of $125,000, according to "America's Most Wanted."

"Clark's conviction pretty much killed that congregation," Royal said.

A bench warrant was issued for Clark, who was believed to have fled Virginia. He was not seen again for nearly two years when, in 2003, according to "America's Most Wanted," Clark was spotted "sleeping in a Chevy Astro van in Los Angeles, Calif."

While authorities were attempting to identify him, Clark escaped and led police on a high-speed chase that resulted in his escape. Royal said there have been sporadic reports that Clark is now back in Virginia.

Clark is described as a white male with blue eyes and brown hair, 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing about 240 pounds.

John Walsh, founder and host of "America's Most Wanted," spoke to children at McNair Elementary School in Herndon last spring to warn them of the dangers of predators like Clark.