Detectives believed there were still more victims from Escobedo’s time as a Jehovah’s Witness. Detectives say they’re still not sure they have the full picture.
“We’re going to keep going,” said Lt. Pursell. “We are. We’re going to keep digging. We still have more forensic evidence that we’re examining. If we can find more victims, we’re going to.”
Original Article by Corin Hoggard and published by abc30.com here on January 18,2022.
Fresno County sheriff’s detectives have re-arrested a suspected child abuser again after they say they uncovered evidence from a tenth woman, one who reported abuse in her childhood.
34 year-old Anthony Escobedo was arrested last Tuesday in connection with a Fresno County sheriff’s investigation. Escobedo was already facing 15 charges ranging from annoying or molesting a child to possession of child pornography to rape. He now faces five new felony charges. Escobedo was disfellowshipped in 2016.
Prior to his arrest, investigators said they asked Jehovah’s Witnesses for their internal records, but ultimately executed a search warrant to get them. “Our investigation led us to believe there was additional information in the church documents in more or less their personnel files that they keep on parishioners,” said Lt. Brandon Pursell of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.
Action News recorded detectives seizing manila envelopes as they served a search warrant last month at Jehovah’s Witness churches in Kingsburg and Clovis.
Detectives believed there were still more victims from Escobedo’s time as a Jehovah’s Witness and say they’re still not sure they have the full picture. “We’re going to keep going,” said Lt. Pursell. “We are. We’re going to keep digging. We still have more forensic evidence that we’re examining. If we can find more victims, we’re going to.”
His defense attorney said that some of the new charges stem from incidents investigated years ago. Tulare County investigators dropped a case in 2012 citing insufficient evidence and Fresno County prosecutors dropped another in 2014 for the same reason.
Prosecutor Andrew Janz says he now counts ten victims in at least three counties, so he believes Escobedo is too dangerous to be free and he’ll try to convince a judge to keep him in custody. Escobedo has on previous occasions, pleaded not guilty to every charge he’s faced so far and bailed out after each previous arrest.
A judge is scheduled to decide Tuesday whether Escobedo should stay behind bars without bail pending trial.
Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed to be “cooperating in the investigation” and issued the following statement: “To our knowledge, the identity of every victim known to the congregation has been reported to the police. As we understand it, the authorities were contacted on five different occasions about various incidents. In addition, the police are in possession of all relevant congregation records, which include privileged communications between congregants and elders.”
Each Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses has storage file cabinets belonging to each congregation that uses that Kingdom Hall. In those filing cabinets are documents including correspondence among bodies of elders, circuit overseers and various ecclesiastical committees of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Among these documents are ecclesiastical investigations into allegations of criminal behavior including child rape.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible that some congregations relocated some documents for security reasons to private homes.
I’m not surprised that documents containing allegations of child rape that occurred years ago, are now being pulled from religious places of worship (“Jehovah’s House”); and were not handed over (at least copies of) to law enforcement at the time of the ecclesiastical investigations.
The elders whose names and signatures are in those documents, have a lot of questions to answer, including “If the elders and Jehovah’s Witnesses are law-abiding citizens and promote themselves to be such, why did the investigating elders not themselves on their own accord, make a police report into allegations of criminal conduct? Why hide allegations of child rape for all these years at the Kingdom Hall, only now to be discovered by the Sheriff’s Department?”
Detectives Arrest Man with History of Sex Offense Investigations – Fresno County Sheriff’s Office