East Shore church sued over sex abuse by former youth leader

By Matt Miller
July 20, 2015

Joshua Markelwitz

Claiming the abuse should have been prevented, a Dauphin County woman filed a lawsuit Monday against a former church youth leader and the East Shore church where he spent years molesting her.

The lead defendant in the county court case, Joshua Markelwitz, is serving a 12- to 24-year state prison term after pleading guilty last year to charges that he sexually abused the girl he met through a youth group at Charlton United Methodist Church in Lower Paxton Township.

The woman, who claims the molestation started in 2009 when she was 12, also is suing the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church.

She contends that church officials didn't properly screen Markelwitz before allowing him to work with youth and violated their own policies that would have barred him from being alone with the girl on church property.

An official at the Charlton church referred questions on the suit to the conference. Conference spokesman Jerry Wolgemuth couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

In the suit, the woman's attorneys, Benjamin D. Andreozzi and Nathaniel L. Foote, contend that the background of Markelwitz, who was 26 when the woman began attending the church, should have barred him from being a youth leader. They cited the fact that the former Enola man was court-martialed and spent 8 months in a military prison for drawing a weapon on a superior officer while serving in the Army in Iraq.

Markelwitz also demonstrated "terrible judgment" as a youth leader by showing the kids how to dismantle a firearm, even though his military conviction barred him from handling guns, Andreozzi and Foote claim.

They claim Markelwitz began showing "an uncommon interest" in their client when she joined the youth group and "abused and raped" her in the church's youth room, storage room, kitchen and mechanical room. Things got to the point where Markelwitz "openly treated (the girl) more like a girlfriend than a child he was supervising," the suit states.

Congregation members who raised concerns that Markelwitz might be acting inappropriately with the girl were ignored by the church leadership, Andreozzi and Foote contend. They claim church officials didn't follow a "safe sanctuary" policy that barred adults from being alone with children, and that conference officials didn't ensure that the Charlton leadership followed that rule.

Andreozzi and Foote claim the girl tried to fight off Markelwitz, but was physically no match for him. At one point, the suit states, Markelwitz handcuffed her and threatened to make her watch him kill her mother if she kept protesting the mistreatment.

After suffering "extensive psychological problems," the girl reported the abuse to her mother, it states, adding that she still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

She seeks unspecified financial damages from the church and the conference on negligence grounds, and from the jailed Markelwitz on claims of assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The girl from the Charlton church is one of two girls Markelwitz, who was arrested in 2012, was charged with molesting. He also pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a sexual relationship investigators said he had with another teenage girl he met while volunteering with the East Pennsboro High School band.



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.