Parents Sue SJ Church, Man Facing 30 Child Sex Abuse Charges - NBC Bay Area

Parents Sue SJ Church, Man Facing 30 Child Sex Abuse Charges



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    The parents of an alleged victim of child sexual abuse at a San Jose church camp in 2007 are suing the church and a man facing 30 criminal charges of lewd acts with children at a daycare center.

    The unnamed parents filed suit Tuesday in San Jose against the Baptist Church of San Jose, now known as the Church on the Hill, its business manager Elliot Sands and Keith Woodhouse, according to their attorney Robert Allard.

    Woodhouse, 27, currently faces 30 counts of felony lewd and lascivious acts on children under 14 in a separate case involving kids he once supervised at the Trace Child Development Center, a daycare facility in San Jose, according to Deputy District Attorney Luis Ramos.

    His trial on the charges starts on Monday in Santa Clara County Superior Court's Hall of Justice in San Jose, Ramos said.

    San Jose police arrested Woodhouse on Jan. 26, 2011, after he allegedly abused nine children aged 5 to 7 while employed at the Trace daycare facility from late summer 2010 to January 2011, Ramos said.

    Since the criminal case includes multiple victims of lewd and lascivious acts under 14, Woodhouse faces life in prison and is being held without bail at the county jail, Ramos said.

    Woodhouse's preliminary hearing took place in 2011 but the case has met with delays because Woodhouse has changed attorneys three times. His current lawyer is Deputy Public Defender Kelly Kulick, Ramos said.

    The prosecution expects to call the juvenile victims at Trace to testify at Woodhouse's trial, Ramos said.

    The lawsuit filed Tuesday claims that the Baptist church, which had fired Woodhouse three times for inappropriate behavior with girls, actually gave him a positive recommendation when he applied for the daycare job at the Trace center, where he won the job in spring 2010.

    The suit claims that on July 2, 2007, at the church's summer camp at 500 Sands Drive, a female lifeguard overheard the parents' then 6-year-old daughter complain that "something is poking me in the butt" while Woodhouse held her in his lap inside a swimming pool.

    The suit alleges that while exiting the pool, "Woodhouse was seen to have a noticeable erection" by the female lifeguard. She reported it to a male lifeguard who followed Woodhouse to a restroom were he said he then heard Woodhouse masturbating.

    The lifeguard later told San Jose police in 2011 that he reported the incident to church management.

    Sands, the church's administrator, did not report Woodhouse at the time to San Jose police and told police in 2012 that he never heard about the lifeguard's account of the incident, the suit alleges.

    Sands told police that the church's file on Woodhouse had been misplaced but he later produced the file, which contained typewritten statements from two lifeguards about the 2007 incident, according to the suit.

    San Jose police told Sands that he had a duty to report the 2007 incident to the authorities, but the suit states that Sands "refused to take any blame for his actions or failure to act."

    When told by a San Jose police detective that he may face a lawsuit, Sands addressed the detective and "without any remorse or emotion whatsoever, merely shrugged and stated, 'Oh well, that's what insurance is for,'" according to the suit.

    The alleged victim, who is now 14, has been in counseling for years due to mental trauma from the incident and her parents only learned about it in April of this year, according to Allard.

    In 2009, after firing Woodhouse twice for his behavior with girls, the church permitted him to return to work with minors at the church's ministry for children, with the understanding he would not supervise kids alone, according to the suit.

    Woodhouse was then seen holding girls in his lap while supervising them, prompting Sands to ask him to leave after three weeks.

    "Woodhouse's inappropriate conduct with children continued," the plaintiffs stated in the suit. "He simply could not help himself."

    Irene Takahashi, the church's defense attorney who is based in San Francisco, declined to comment on the case.

    Ramos said that the district attorney's office opted not to file charges against Woodhouse over the 2007 incident, citing lack of evidence.