Court Documents Physical Abuse in Cardelli Case; Two Children under Pastor's Care Allege He Hit Kids with Stick

By John Driscoll
Contra Costa Times
September 25, 2010

Two children living with the former Arcata pastor accused of repeated sexual encounters with a minor have told investigators that he routinely beat two mentally disabled children in his care with a wooden stick, according to Humboldt County Superior Court documents.

On Sept. 15, six days after Dino Cardelli's arrest, investigators served a search warrant on his home on Sunny Grove Avenue in McKinleyville, seizing journals, phones, computers and cameras. A laptop computer and flash drives were seized at the Calvary Chapel office where Cardelli, 49, worked for 15 years until resigning after his arrest.

Cardelli has been charged with recurring sexual abuse of a child under the age of 14 who lived with him, one count of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a minor and two counts of oral copulation with a minor. He has pleaded not guilty, and was released on a reduced bail of $250,000 on Wednesday.

On Sept. 16, investigators interviewed another child living with Cardelli. That child, Jane Doe 2, told investigators that she had seen Cardelli strike two mentally handicapped children living with him, raising welts and bruises, according to a statement of probable cause filed for another warrant. On Sept. 22, a third child, Jane Doe 3, told investigators she had witnessed “routine physical abuse” of the two mentally handicapped children. He used a wooden stick to punish them for disobedience, Jane Doe 3 told them, about five to six times a week.

That week, according to the statement, a social worker visiting the Sunny Grove residence reportedly saw a wooden stick on the refrigerator. The wooden stick was seized by investigators in a second search.

Deputy District Attorney Kelly Neel said on Friday that the case is fluid, and that more information may or may not be forthcoming. Asked if physical abuse charges will be filed against Cardelli, she said the matter is still under investigation.

The initial alleged victim in the case, Jane Doe 1, told school staff that she had a sexual relationship with Cardelli, which prompted an investigation. In an interview on Sept. 9 with Humboldt County Child Abuse Services, the girl said that their relationship started with oral sex and progressed to vaginal sex, beginning at age 13.

Later that day, investigators recorded a phone call between Jane Doe 1 and Cardelli. According to the court documents, he allegedly made statements “such as, 'I didn't molest you just because I wanted to have sex with you,' and, 'I asked you over and over again if this was consensual, if you were in agreement with this.'”

Cardelli was taken into custody that evening. The statement said that Cardelli waived his Miranda rights, and admitted having a sexual relationship with Jane Doe 1. He allegedly told investigators that he'd fallen in love with the girl, and that kissing and touching progressed to oral sex and intercourse.

”Dino explained that he knew his daughter's age and that what he had done was wrong,” according to the statement.

At a court hearing Friday, Cardelli's attorney Mark Bruce turned over his client's passport, saying that Cardelli's attempts to forfeit the document were refused by jail staff upon his release. Other than surrendering his passport, another condition of Cardelli's release is not to contact any minor children he had lived with in McKinleyville.

Bruce said by phone that Cardelli fully understands the restrictions.

”He will fully comply with that portion of the court's order,” Bruce said.

Cardelli is set to return to court on Oct. 13 for a prelimary hearing, in which the prosecution lays out evidence and a judge determines if the case will go to trial.


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