Man Admits to Fondling Kids at Church Functions
Lavertu Told His Pastors Last Year about Assaults, Police Say
October 4, 2007

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A 23-year-old Windsor, Colo., man at the center of a church controversy has pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges in connection to the fondling of a handful of children at church functions.

Paul J. Lavertu admitted Wednesday in Larimer District Court to attempted sexual assault on a child and unlawful sexual contact. As part of the plea agreement, six other charges against him were dropped.

Paul Lavertu admits to fondling children at church functions.

Lavertu surrendered to police in June on the advice of his

pastors at Gateway Baptist Church in Loveland, Colo.

Police said Lavertu inappropriately touched at least five children under their clothes. The victims were two girls ages 10 and 14, and three boys ages 8, 10, and 14.

Police said one sexual assault happened in Fort Collins in June involving the teenage girl; another happened in Loveland about two years ago involving a 10-year-old girl; and three incidents happened in unincorporated Larimer County in the summer of 2006 involving three boys.

Four of the victims and Lavertu were members of the Gateway Baptist Church.

Three ministers at the church face charges in connection with failing to report child abuse by a member of their congregation. The pastors learned of the incidents in the summer 2006 and instead of contacting authorities, the pastors at Gateway Baptist Church encouraged Lavertu to turn himself in and helped him find an attorney, police said.

James Rice, Thad Gunderson and Eric Mowen face charges of failing to report the alleged abuse, which is a misdemeanor.

Jim Avery, an attorney for the family of one of the victims, said that parishioners were told about the assaults and the church decided to shelter the suspect. Avery said the church offered Lavertu counseling.

Lavertu came forward to police this summer, after he had molested another child, police said.

"They're outraged. The family is absolutely livid. They're outraged that this situation has occurred," said Avery. "My client would not have been exposed to this person had they known he was a sexual deviant ... How can anyone in modern society not be aware of the fact that a sexual predator is going to strike again?"

The parents of an alleged victim have sued the pastors and Lavertu.

A police spokeswoman said that Colorado law has specific requirements for persons required to report abuse or neglect and the law includes the clergy.

Lavertu will be sentenced on Nov. 6.


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