On May 15, a jury of 12 found Nathaniel Morales, a former youth group leader for the Covenant Life Church, guilty of two counts of second degree sexual offenses and three counts of sexually abusing a minor. Jeremy Cook, the accuser, emotional said that “I started crying…it was overwhelming to know that the struggle, the fight, the 25 years of trying to bring this forward, was worth it.” Cook claims to have been abused over 50 times during his teenage years, and finally received justice for the crimes committed against him.
During the trial and testimonies, it was revealed that at one point Morales had lost his day job and was given a place to stay in a fellow parishioner’s home in the basement, in a room adjacent to his 15 year old son’s room. The boy, now a man 39 years old, testified years later during the trial saying that Morales would sneak into his room and molest him, threatening him that if the victim did not allow it to happen, that “he’d have random acts of sex and get AIDS.”
Apparently, the Covenant Life Church also had a reputation of burying any allegations of sexual abuse by its members. Former Pastor Grant Layman knew of the reported abuse and did not report it to law enforcement. When Layman testified during Morales’ trial, he admitted that he had an obligation to report the abuse but that he failed to do so.
Pam Palmer, a member of the Covenant Life Church for 23 years, claims that her daughter was abused by a teenager in the youth group in the 1990’s, and with the help of investigators, pursued charges. Pam believes that the Church should be held accountable for covering up sexual abuse and housing known predators because it only puts the children in more danger, remarking “They had a lot to protect. They had money, power and prestige.”
Because the church attempted to cover up the sexual abuses, multiple lawsuits will be filed against them from victims and their families. Cook concludes that “They left this predator on the street when they had knowledge, and ultimately they’ll have to answer to that, whether it be to the courts, or whether it be to God”
Like most child molesters, Morales used his position as spiritual leader at Covenant Life church to gain the trust of the young teens he abused in the late 80s and early 90s. According to the Department of Justice, 60% of boys, and 80% of girls, who were victims of sexual abuse, knew their abuser and that the abuser was likely to be a relative, family friend, care giver, teacher, or other person in a position of authority over the child. The DOJ further reports that 80% of child molesters are men.
The experienced Charlotte sexual abuse attorneys at Auger & Auger have been representing victims and their families for over 25 years. If you have a question about a possible sexual abuse or assault case, do not hesitate to call. The consultation is free and confidential. (704) 364-3361.