TULSA, Okla., Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Leaders of a Tulsa, Okla., megachurch where a sex abuse scandal has erupted say members should speak up if they know of any sex crimes.
Victory Christian Center has fired two church janitors who were subsequently charged with child sex crimes. Five other staff members were charged with failure to report the child abuse allegations to authorities.
"I want to personally say, that if anybody here is aware of any child being neglected or abused, physically or sexually, that you should please inform the authorities immediately," Senior Pastor Sharon Daugherty said in a statement to the congregation Saturday. "Our children are precious, and we owe them our full protection."
Concerns have been raised about a lapse in reporting the allegations to police by church officials, and police said last week their investigation into the possibility of a third suspect had been hindered by uncooperative parents of possible additional victims, the Tulsa World reported.
The newspaper said the church's account shows Daugherty learned of the incidents three days before anyone at the church tried to contact law enforcement and police did not become officially involved until almost a week after Daugherty was notified.
Daugherty said Saturday she had expected her subordinates to handle the matter correctly.
"I was briefly told of an incident involving two ... employees and members of 24/7 [a youth group] ... and was told it was being reported but did not receive any details on the specific allegations," Daugherty said. "I was extremely disappointed to later hear of the delay in the time it was first reported."
Chris Denman, 20, is charged with raping a 13-year-old girl at the church, court records show. Israel Shalom Castillo, 23, is charged with making a lewd or indecent proposal to a child and using a computer to facilitate a sex crime.
Both are members of the church and worked there recently as janitors, information provided by the church showed.
Five Victory Christian Center staff members, including Daugherty's son and daughter-in-law, were suspended from employment in addition to being charged with misdemeanor counts of failing to report child abuse.