Rector Charged with Sexual Assault of Teen

By Jim Lowe
Lampasas Dispatch Record [Lampasas TX]
February 12, 2007

The Rev. Jim Carlton Wooldridge, 61, longtime rector of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Lampasas, has been charged with two counts of sexual assault and one complaint of indecency with a child, all second-degree felonies.

Also arrested was John Christian J.C. Wood, 20, of Lampasas for sexual assault, indecency with a child and unlawful possession of a firearm. While the sexual assault and indecency complaints are second-degree felonies, the firearm offense is a third-degree felony.

The arrests were spurred by a report to police on Dec. 1 that a male juvenile had been sexually assaulted by Wooldridge and Wood on multiple occasions last year.

An investigation followed over the next six weeks, which resulted in arrest warrants being issued last week for the two men by Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Andrew Garcia.

The office of Lampasas County Attorney Larry Allison contacted Wooldridge's attorney, Eddie Shell of Burnet, and asked that the local church official turn himself in to authorities. Wooldridge did so on Thursday, surrendering to police at 4:04 p.m. at the Lampasas County Jail.

Earlier in the day, at 10:12 a.m., Wood was arrested by Lampasas police during a traffic stop. In addition to his other charges, Wood was charged with possession of marijuana under two ounces, a Class B misdemeanor.

Garcia set bonds totaling $8,500 for Wooldridge -- $3,000 for each sexual assault complaint and $2,500 for indecency with a child. Wooldridge was released Thursday evening after posting bond.

At press time Monday, Wood remained in the county jail with total bail set at $14,500 -- $3,000 for sexual assault, $5,000 for indecency with a child. $5,000 for the firearm complaint and $1,500 for marijuana possession.

Wooldridge, an Episcopal clergyman since 1979, has been rector at St. Mary's for 13 years. For six years, he was rector of an Episcopal church in Burnet County and served parishioners in Burnet and Marble Falls. He assisted at Episcopal churches in Lockhart, Wimberley and San Marcos, and he had been vicar of St. John's in Center, Texas, and Christ Church in San Augustine.

The Lampasas rector's association with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts dates back to 1977.

The male victim had been a member of the local Boy Scouts program for several years and attended meetings at the church sponsored by Wooldridge, said Lt. Criminal Investigator Jody Cummings of the Lampasas Police Department. In addition, the local teenager and his mother knew Wooldridge very well for a very long time, Cummings said.

Cummings, who has been assisted in his investigation by Texas Ranger Jess Ramos, said a 13-page probable cause affidavit for an arrest warrant against Wooldridge is probably the lengthiest one I've prepared as a police official.

He said he worked on the investigation virtually on a daily basis over the past month and a half. Because of the preparation that went into this and the prominence of the person involved, we wanted to do our homework and do it again, Cummings told the Lampasas Dispatch Record in an interview Saturday at the Police Department.

Said Cummings: This has to be the most uncomfortable case I've worked, by the nature of what was reported. The church is across the street. Father Jim was looked upon as a good man who had done a lot of good for the community.

Added the police official, This has been difficult for me, my boss and the county attorney. We talked daily, because we knew this would be a shock to the community.

We're continuing to investigate, Cummings said. We acquired the warrants when we got more than enough information, in our opinion, to convince us that we had to go forward. We're still acquiring information.

Wooldridge has been on administrative leave since early December, according to church officials who contacted the Police Department. The Lampasas rector has continued to live in the church parsonage but, Cummings said, I was told he wasn't to do any church activities.

Although the Lampasas County grand jury is set to meet this Wednesday, Wooldridge's and Wood's cases probably will not be presented to grand jurors until February, when they meet again, Cummings said.

The Lampasas police investigator said that while he is not aware of Wooldridge having a criminal history before the complaints filed last week, such is not the case with Wood, who has lived with Wooldridge at the church parsonage for a couple of years. Wood has been arrested for possession of a controlled substance on more than one occasion, and he currently is on felony probation.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Cummings said Wooldridge met Wood years ago when the latter was a troubled teen and the rector offered a helping hand.

Wooldridge's involvement with Scouting and the possibility that other Scouts could have been approached sexually by the clergyman have added to authorities' apprehensions, Cummings indicated.

We've been extremely concerned, because as a pastor and Scout leader and his proximity to children, there may be other victims, the police investigator said. At this point, however, We have only one victim. I know of no other victims, added Cummings.

The probable cause affidavit details police interviews with a local 18-year-old male and a 21-year-old man, as well as detailed statements from the victim; alleged gifts from the rector who reportedly wanted sexual favors in return; and the Lampasas clergyman's decision to give the 21-year-old seven guns - to keep elsewhere, at least for a while.

The document also describes allegations against Wooldridge and Wood:

• The juvenile victim, whose mother worked late in a neighboring city, stayed at Wooldridge's residence on a number of occasions. On his first night at the parsonage, the victim said, he and Wood kissed and later slept together. A few days later, the situation was repeated, the victim said.

• The youth detailed several occasions in which Wooldridge and Wood reportedly took part in sexual acts with him. In one such instance, according to the victim's statement, the teenager and Wood reportedly showered together, at which time first Wood, then Wooldridge, participated in sexual acts with him. The youth spent the night at Wooldridge's residence and slept with Wood, according to a statement the victim gave law-enforcement officials. He (the victim) said Father Jim woke him up the next morning and seemed mad or jealous, the affidavit states. He said Father Jim Wooldridge told him the next time he spent the night, he had to sleep with him in his bed. The victim said that Wooldridge then gave him a $100 check and a pack of cigarettes that morning, as the youth left for school.

• The victim also described four occasions - once reportedly in Wooldridge's truck when the rector was driving the victim home elsewhere in the county - in which he and Wooldridge allegedly engaged in oral sex. The victim indicated that in each instance Wooldridge requested a sexual encounter and often was persistent.

• On another occasion, the youth alleges, Wooldridge gave the victim a ride home. According to the statement the victim gave police, the church official asked the victim over and over again to participate in a sexual act with him. The youth refused the advances, and Wooldridge eventually handed the victim a $100 bill but said he would have to take the money back if the youth did not comply with the rector's wishes, the affidavit states. The victim returned the $100 bill when he got out of the vehicle, the youth told authorities.

• In a police interview with the 21-year-old man, the man said he had started Boy Scouts with Wooldridge at his church at about age 11. The man said that several years ago, he and Wooldridge were talking at the church, and the rector asked if the teenager were gay. The teenager told the rector that he was not. In other conversations over the next few years, Wooldridge repeated the question, but the other man always said he was not a homosexual, according to the affidavit. Earlier in 2005, the man said, Wooldridge told the man he and another person were having a homosexual affair, according to the affidavit. The 21-year-old man and Wooldridge shared an interest in guns, the document states, and when the other man told Wooldridge he would like to have the rector's .45 Glock pistol, the clergyman reportedly replied: You know what you'll have to do to get it.

Though Wooldridge never told the other man exactly what he meant, the 21-year-old took it that Father Jim Wooldridge wanted a sexual favor for the gun, according to the affidavit.

The document also states that when the man turned 21, Wooldridge gave him the pistol and made another strange statement to him. According to the other man's account of the visit, Wooldridge said since the man was 21, he was now of legal age to do things with him, the document says. The 21-year-old told officials he believed the rector wanted to have a sexual relationship with him or wanted a sexual favor from him, the affidavit states.

Lisa Carnley also contributed to this report. The photo of Jim Wooldridge was supplied by the Killeen Daily Herald.


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