Ex-lake Forest Youth Pastor Pleads Guilty to Sexually Assaulting Church Parishioners

By Kelly Puente
Orange County Register
November 4, 2016

Sean Patrick

In a courtroom, the women addressed their former pastor – a man they once trusted who sexually assaulted them.

“I’m not going to paint every detail of the pain you’ve inflicted on myself and those around me, because you know exactly how much damage you’ve caused,” one victim said.

“We are not here today because of some story we’ve spun, we’re here because of the truth of what you did. ... God have mercy on your soul. ”

On Friday, a former Lake Forest 39-year-old youth pastor, Sean Patrick Aday, pleaded guilty to two felonies and two misdemeanors of sexual battery – each count tied to a different victim.

After the plea deal was officially accepted in a courtroom filled with current and former parishioners, three victims and several of their family members addressed Aday while many in the audience cried and wiped away tears.

They described how he used his position of trust to groom and manipulate his victims.

“l lost friends,” one victim said. “I lost my job. I lost my faith. I lost more than words can describe.

“I hope no other church falls prey to your lies and manipulation,” she said.

Said a victim’s mother, “I knew when I met you there was something off about you – you can’t even look me in the eye now.”

When he returns to court on Dec. 9, Aday is expected to get two years in prison and be required to register for the rest of his life as a sex offender.

A former youth pastor at Grace Community Church in Lake Forest, he was accused of sexually assaulting the four women while they were a member of his youth group or a volunteer at the church.

Parishioners who attended Friday’s court hearing said the case devastated their small, close-knit church.

“He’s a monster,” said Greg Woodard, an Irvine attorney who left the church several years ago because of concerns over Aday’s behavior with the youth.

From 2008 to 2015, prosecutors said, Aday sexually assaulted women either on church property or during church-sponsored trips to Costa Rica, Moldova or South Africa.

He was originally charged with 10 felony counts including forcible rape, sodomy by force, sexual penetration by a foreign object and force, and sexual battery. He had faced up to 29 years in prison.

The investigation began last year when a woman told police that he sexually assaulted her, then others followed.

Sitting next to his defense attorney, John Barnett, Aday stared straight ahead as people addressed him.

It is the Register’s policy to not publish the names of sexual-assault victims, but one victim wanted her name used with the hope that her story would help others.

Sara Fuentes, a 27-year-old teacher, spoke in court and then to a reporter. She had been a member of the church since the third grade, meeting Aday when she was a high school freshman.

She said that Aday, throughout her high school years, acted as a father figure. When Fuentes graduated, she stayed on with the church’s youth group as a volunteer.

At age 19, Fuentes was invited to go on a church trip to Costa Rica, where she said the sexual abuse began and continued for more than two years until she left the church. Fuentes said she didn’t say anything at the time because she was scared and confused.

“I was so fearful and I didn’t want things to change, because the church was my life,” she said. “The best way I can say it is I felt brainwashed. I felt like I had no power.”

Years later, Fuentes got a call from detectives after an 18-year-old victim came forward.

“It was like the call you knew was coming that you never wanted,” she said.

Fuentes now attends a different church.

“I want to fight for my kids and advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves, because you see what evil can be in this world,” she said.

“Things like this can happen in churches and schools everywhere. We need to be vigilant of who’s around our kids.”

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