Church volunteer faces allegation of child molestation

EDMONDS — A volunteer magician and puppeteer who worked with a children’s ministry at Westgate Chapel in Edmonds is accused of fondling a young parishioner during Sunday school and sneaking his camera up the skirts of unsuspecting girls and women.

Prosecutors on Tuesday charged Terry Jensen, 55, of Edmonds, with first-degree child molestation and two counts of attempted voyeurism.

The incidents date back to 2006, when an 8-year-old girl reported that Jensen fondled her three times during a class, according to court papers. The girl told her mother, who reported the incident to church officials.

Jensen allegedly apologized to the girl during a meeting facilitated at the time by the church and attended by the girl, her mother and the church’s leadership team, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Adam Cornell wrote.

The girl reported that Jensen “got down on one knee” and asked the girl for another chance, court papers said.

Church officials on Tuesday said that Jensen didn’t confess to any criminal activity during the meeting. Church leaders know that they must report any allegations of abuse against children and would have called police if they believed a crime occurred, Cindi Bowen, an assistant pastor at the church, said.

A church elder and others had no information at the time that Jensen had fondled the girl, Bowen said. Instead, there was a plausible explanation for why the girl may have misunderstood the situation. He apologized, suggesting there had been miscommunication that made the girl feel uncomfortable. The family seemed satisfied with the explanation and remained active with the church, Bowen said.

Church officials did go to police in January, when Jensen was confronted again with allegations of sexual impropriety with parishioners.

Prosecutors allege that Jensen used a small camera to take pictures up the skirts of women and girls at church and on business trips.

Jensen told Westgate Chapel officials he used the church’s camera to take pictures underneath the skirts of some of the teenage puppet workers behind the stage, Cornell wrote.

Two women also reported that Jensen used a small camera that looked like a pen to take pictures of them during business trips.

Edmonds police seized two of Jensen’s computers. They weren’t able to find any images that pertained to the allegations against him. Jensen, Cornell wrote, destroyed a third computer and threw it in the garbage. Investigators were unable to locate the computer, Cornell wrote.

Jensen was removed as a volunteer when the allegations surfaced this year, Bowen said. He had been a volunteer since 2003 and underwent a criminal background screening.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463;

Talk to us

More in Local News

Vehicles start to back ups at I-5's exit 192 as rush hour begins. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)
Survey: Snohomish is state’s sixth-healthiest county

While the county has low birth rates among teens, drivers here have some of the longest commute times.

Firefighters work to put out a blaze at a house in the Meadowdale area of Edmonds early Saturday morning.  (South County Fire)
Man, woman seriously injured in Meadowdale house fire

They were taken to Harborview Medical Center. Three other adults and a dog escaped with no injuries.

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman looks up at a video monitor in a hallway as he arrives for a session of Thurston County Superior Court, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. Eyman, who ran initiative campaigns across Washington for decades, will no longer be allowed to have any financial control over political committees, under a ruling from Superior Court Judge James Dixon Wednesday that blasted Eyman for using donor's contributions to line his own pocket. Eyman was also told to pay more than $2.5 million in penalties. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ouch: Judge orders Tim Eyman to pay state’s $2.9M legal tab

In February, a judge found that the serial initiative promoter repeatedly violated campaign finance laws.

Simeon Berkley declines to make a statement during his sentencing hearing Friday afternoon at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett on March 16, 2021. Berkley was sentenced to 22-years in prison for the second-degree murder of Steven Whitmarsh in 2019.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Everett road-rage shooter gets 22 years for ‘execution’

Simeon Berkley, 75, was convicted of second-degree murder for the death of Steven Whitemarsh.

Exterior of the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Tulalip Tribes reach deal with state on sports betting

If all goes to plan, the tribes could get federal approval for sports books at two casinos by the fall.

Mill Creek has new drug law — it could be obsolete in days

The city council re-criminalized drug possession, while state lawmakers debate their own legislation.

County nixes new shelter plan, expands cold-weather refuge

A shelter at the United Church of Christ on Rockefeller Avenue will remain open year-round.

As eligibility expands, 4,700 flock to local vaccine clinics

It might be difficult to secure a dose right away in Snohomish County, but keep trying, officials say.

Brian Baird, a former congressman who lives in Edmonds, hopes to create a National Museum and Center for Service in Washington, D.C. (contributed photo)
‘The time is right’ to honor helpers, says former congressman

Brian Baird, of Edmonds, is working to establish a National Museum and Center for Service in D.C.

Most Read