|Three Testify Pastor Sexually Abused Them
By Rob Parsons
September 27, 2010
A pattern of escalating sexual abuse against teenage girls in his congregation was outlined by Glenn County prosecutors on the first day of the trial of a former Willows pastor today.
An eight-woman, four-man Superior Court jury heard testimony from three women who said Carlton F. Hammonds groped them on multiple occasions and at various locations, but most frequently the reported abuse occurred inside the Willows Baptist Church and in Hammonds' real estate office in Willows.
"He would always say 'I love you,' 'you're so special,' 'you mean so much to me,'" one of the reported victims testified. "I didn't know how someone I'd known for so long could do that. I have a hard time trusting people (now)."
Hammonds is charged with sexually assaulting two girls in 2006, but prosecutors believe there were others. In fact, only one of the three witnesses who testified is one of the two in the official allegation.
The other who was reportedly abused in 2006, is scheduled to testify Tuesday.
Hammonds, 56, is expected to take the stand at some point during the trial, according to his attorney, Adam B. Ryan.
The former Willows pastor has denied wrongdoing.
In his opening statement, Ryan called Hammonds "a good, decent human being who is absolutely not guilty of these charges."
"The (case) details just don't hold up to logic and common sense," Ryan said.
Ryan told jurors they would hear evidence that would not only vindicate his client, but would also explain why the reported victims would lie.
"It really only takes one person making one statement to get it all rolling," Ryan told the jury.
All three witnesses, whose names are withheld by this newspaper, testified they felt "uncomfortable" after they began receiving longer and more forceful hugs from the pastor when they were 12, 13 and 15, respectively. Some of the reported abuse dates back beyond 2006.
One of the witnesses, now 18, said she noticed the change in Hammonds' behavior after she turned 12.
"It just started getting really weird," the woman testified. "He started talking to me and looking at me different."
The witnesses described an escalating pattern of inappropriate touching that began with drawn-out hugging and included fondling or groping of the breasts and buttocks.
"He would pull me into his office and start hugging me and telling me how much he loved me," the woman told the jury. "He started to hug me longer and stronger when I tried to pull away. It was just really creepy."
Ryan questioned several inconsistencies between statements the reported victims made to police and in their testimony.
One of the victims testified that Hammonds had "poked" her breasts with his finger on several occasions as they drove church delivery routes on Saturday mornings.
However, Ryan said, the woman did not disclose that when interviewed in 2008 by Glenn County sheriff's detectives.
The reported victim said she was "intimidated" by Hammonds.
"I've never seen him be violent, but that doesn't mean that he couldn't be," the woman said. "He is very intimidating."
Dwayne Stewart, assistant district attorney, told jurors that testimony would be heard from another witness who claims that Hammonds groped her while she was in the shower at his home, and that he got into the shower with her and groped her while both were naked.
Testimony resumes in the Orland courthouse on Tuesday morning.
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