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Family wins abuse settlement against Oak Harbor church

Four Oak Harbor children who were sexually abused by a former youth leader at Living Faith Christian Center won a $150,000 settlement from the church’s insurance company last week.

LaMonica and Tyrone Davis, parents of the four children ages 4 to 13, filed the lawsuit early this year through Coupeville attorney Mimi Buescher.

The complaint alleged that church pastors were warned that Nathan Martinez, a 21-year-old youth leader in the church, was sexually attracted to children and was a danger to children, but did nothing to protect the young members.

Church officials denied the allegations made in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit names the church, pastors David and Linda Jenkins, pastors Frederick and Iretha Burleson and pastors Nydia and Obadiah Schimp as defendants.

The complaint claims that a member of Martinez’ family warned the pastors about Martinez’s sexual attraction to children. In addition, it claims that the church leaders were aware of allegations that he had molested children in the congregation before police became involved, but they didn’t investigate or notify law enforcement.

The police investigated last year after Martinez, accompanied by church officials, went to the police department and turned himself in.

Moreover, the complaint alleges that the pastors tried to coerce the Davis family and others not to cooperate with the criminal investigation or prosecution of Martinez.

Church officials couldn’t be reached for comment. But a declaration submitted to the court by Pastor David Jenkins states that the insurance company settled the case over the objections of the church and the pastors. Jenkins notes that none of the crimes by Martinez took place at the church.

“Neither the church nor the defendants had any reason to suspect the perpetrator would commit such crimes, which are completely contrary to the biblical teaching of the church,” he wrote.

Martinez pleaded guilty in Island County Superior Court last fall to one count of child rape, seven counts of child molestation and one count of attempted child molestation. He was originally charged with 30 counts of child sexual abuse and accused of sexually assaulting nine children from the congregation. The crimes took place while Martinez was babysitting the kids.

During the unusual sentencing hearing in October of 2008, members of the church — including at least one of the pastors, as well as parents and grandparents of the victims — packed the courtroom and asked the judge to have mercy on Martinez.

Judge Alan Hancock sentenced Martinez to 20 years to life in prison.

Court documents explain that the children will receive the net proceeds of $80,000 in a structured settlement. The attorneys will receive a third of the $150,000 settlement, plus $20,000 in costs and fees are deducted from the settlement.

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