The Hour [Norwalk, CT]
December 22, 2022
By Liz Hardaway
A former youth minister who is facing more charges related to a series of child sexual assaults threatened to kill the latest victim if he reported the incidents, according to his arrest warrant.
Jean Bernard, 44, of Shelton, is facing numerous charges related to sexually abusing multiple victims while working as a youth minister at Mont Des Oliviers Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norwalk, according to court documents. Court records indicate the incidents occurred as recently as November 2021 and date back to January 2010.
On Dec. 14, Norwalk police filed new charges of third-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a child against Bernard. His bond was set at $250,000 and he is scheduled to appear in state Superior Court in Stamford for the case on Feb. 21, according to judicial records.
The most recent charges stem from incidents involving an 11-year-old boy identified in Bernard’s arrest warrant application as Victim 4. Bernard was previously charged with three other incidents involving this victim.
The victim said he was about 8 years old when the incidents occurred, the warrant stated. Bernard brought the child to a church storage room that was filled with boxes and stacked chairs, the warrant stated. The victim described part of the incident, saying Bernard molested him, but “that is all (the victim) could remember about that occurrence,” police said in the warrant.
While investigating, police were told by another pastor that the storage room was always locked, but Bernard had keys to access the area, according to the warrant.
The victim and his mother went to the Norwalk Police Department on Jan. 27, days after another pastor spoke to the congregation about the original sexual abuse allegations in an effort to determine if there were more victims.
The boy told police that Bernard had touched him inappropriately, twice in Bridgeport and twice in Norwalk, the warrant said.
The first incident occurred in Bridgeport when the child was 6 years old, the warrant stated. Bernard went to the child’s home to help with the family’s garden. They then went to the basement and Bernard forced the victim to touch him, according to the warrant.
The warrant stated Bernard began sexually assaulting the child after this incident. The boy “felt as though he was going to die after the first time this happened to him,” police noted in the warrant. The child said he suffered pain from Bernard’s sexual abuse, according to the warrant. He also said “Bernard told him he would kill him if he ever told anybody,” according to the warrant.
Another incident occurred when Bernard visited the child at a family member’s home in Bridgeport and molested him in the basement, the warrant said.
In a fourth incident, which took place in Norwalk, Bernard was driving the child home from church and parked in what the victim believed was a nearby elementary school parking lot where he assaulted him in the back seat, according to the warrant.
Police first learned of Bernard’s sexual assaults in January when a 10-year-old boy confided in a family member, court documents show. After advising his pediatrician, the child, identified as Victim 1 in the warrant, was brought to the emergency room at Stamford Hospital where he spoke with police. The child told police Bernard had been sexually assaulting him at the Norwalk church since he was 6 or 7 years old, the warrant said.
A pastor at the church then spoke with Bernard, who denied knowing anything about the accusations, the warrant stated. A few days later, the pastor met with the Board of Elders who decided that Bernard could no longer access any church properties and requested that he return his keys, according to the warrant.
On Jan. 22, the pastor spoke to his 60-person congregation about the sexual abuse and urged parishioners to speak to their children to determine if there were more victims, the warrant stated.
“Victims began coming forward to tell their stories of sex abuse by Jean Aniel Bernard,” the warrant stated. The accusations ranged from rape, oral sex and “unwanted sexual touching,” police said in the warrant.
The church has been based at various locations in Norwalk over the past 22 years. The church rented space at 146 Main St. from 2000 to 2008 before moving to 19 Lexington Ave. from 2008 to 2012 and then to 275 Richards Ave. from 2012 to 2017, the warrant stated. The church has since been operating at 244 East Ave., which it purchased in 2017, the warrant stated.
Bernard, who joined the church in December 2008 when he was 30 years old, was first arrested on Feb. 8 when Norwalk police charged him with first-degree sexual assault, tampering with evidence and three counts of risk of injury to a minor, court records show.
On April 6, Bridgeport police charged Bernard with two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault and two counts of risk of injury to a child, according to court records.
On June 15, Shelton police charged Bernard with commercial sexual abuse of a minor, court records show.
On July 29, Bridgeport police charged Bernard with two counts of first-degree sexual assault, fourth-degree sexual assault and two counts of risk of injury to a child, according to court records.
Bernard is being held on bonds totaling $2.5 million, court records show. He has either pleaded not guilty or not entered a plea in all of the charges, according to court records.
Bernard will next appear in court on Jan. 6 when he has a hearing in Bridgeport.
Those who have suffered from sexual violence can speak to specialists for support, information, advice or a referral by calling the free and confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). Those who wish to chat online with trained specialists, which is also free and confidential, can also go to RAINN.org/Get-Help. Help is available 24/7.
Liz Hardaway may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org