Church sued in sexual assault aftermath

The parents of four children who were sexually assaulted by a member of their Oak Harbor church have filed a lawsuit against the church, leaders of the church and the convicted child molester.

The complaint alleges that officials with Living Faith Christian Center were aware of warning signs and complaints regarding Nathan Martinez and his conduct toward children in the church, but they failed to investigate or alert the parents.

Coupeville attorney Mimi Buescher filed the complaint for damages in Island County Superior Court last month on behalf of Oak Harbor residents LaMonica and Tyronne Davis, and their four children, ages 4 to 12.

The litigation involved one of the most unusual and high-profile criminal cases in recent Island County history. Martinez, a 21-year-old youth leader at Living Faith Christian Center, admitted to molesting eight children while he was babysitting them at the children’s homes. He met all the families through the church, but none of the assaults reportedly occurred at the center on Midway Boulevard.

Originally charged with 30 sex crimes, Martinez pleaded guilty to one count of child rape, seven counts of child molestation and one count of attempted child molestation last fall.

During the sentencing hearing in October, several members of the church spoke in support of Martinez, describing him as a good person who should be forgiven for making a mistake.

But LaMonica Davis told the judge she had been stripped of her relationship with the church because she refused to go along with the “plan” to support Martinez.

The judge sentenced Martinez to 20 years in prison.

The complaint names Living Faith Christian Center, Pastor David Jenkins and Linda Jenkins, Pastor Frederick Burleson and Iretha Burleson, Monica and Samuel Giles, Nydia and Obadiah Schimp, and Martinez as defendants.

Reached at the church last Thursday, Jenkins said he and other church members named in the complaint couldn’t discuss the ongoing litigation.

LaMonica Davis couldn’t be reached for comment. Buescher said she couldn’t discuss the case.

The Davis family is seeking damages for alleged negligence, reckless infliction of emotional distress, outrage, and assault and battery.

The complaint states that Martinez was involved in the church beginning in 2004. “The church allowed Martinez to assume positions of trust within the church, including working with minor children between the ages of five and 11 in a de-facto youth leadership, or youth ministry, capacity,” the complaint says.

The complaint alleges that church leaders “knew or should have known” that Martinez “was sexually attracted to minor children and was a danger to the youths in his ministry.”

The document asserts that in the year before the molestations came to light, “the pastors became aware of warning signs, and certain complaints, by at least some member, regarding Martinez’s conduct with grooming behavior of minor children.” Despite the “warning signs,” the church leaders didn’t warn the children’s parents, the complaint states.

In addition, the complaint states that a member of Martinez’s family warned church officials that Martinez was struggling with his problem of being sexually attracted to children. Again, the church leaders didn’t warn the families or investigate Martinez, the court document alleges.

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