Steve Duin: Memory and moral suicide in Happy Valley


By Steve Duin | The Oregonian/OregonLive
on April 28, 2015

On an otherwise beautiful afternoon in downtown Portland, the niece took the stand Monday in the felony sex-abuse trial of Mike Sperou, the Happy Valley pastor.

Michal Mitchell remembers growing up so “very happy” in Sperou’s church. In her courtroom testimony, she also recalled depression, extreme anxiety, Prozac, nightmares, suicide attempts, the bipolar diagnosis and – starting when she was in the 6th grade – how often she spent the night in her uncle’s bed.

She usually wore Calvin Klein boxers and a t-shirt, she said. Her pastor and spiritual mentor came to bed in boxer shorts, and frequently hugged the long pillow – that he dubbed “Sally” – that separated them. Asked how long this bizarre sleeping arrangement continued, the 30-year-old Mitchell said, “Until now.”

Mike Sperou is on trial for three counts of unlawful sexual penetration of a child under the age of 12. Mitchell is, mind you, a witness for the defense.

For 18 years now, seven other women who grew up in the shadow of Sperou’s bed have insisted he molested them. Their graphic accounts prompted a soul-searching schism at the North Clackamas Bible Community in 1996, but the allegations didn’t spark criminal charges until the women once again brought the complaints to police in 2013.

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