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; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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