Former Principal of Wildomar’s Faith Baptist Academy Pleads Guilty to Molesting Teen in 1990
By Joe Nelson
San Bernardino Sun via the Press-Enterprise
January 8, 2021
|Laverne Paul Fox, 61, of Erie, Pennsylvania, stands in court at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta during his arraignment Thursday, January 23, 2020. (Photo by Andrew Foulk, Contributing Photographer)|
The former principal of Wildomar’s Faith Baptist Academy pleaded guilty Friday, Jan. 8, to molesting a teenage student who babysat for his family more than 30 years ago.
Laverne Paul Fox, 61, who also formerly served as the bus director for the affiliated Faith Baptist Church, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of sexual abuse involving a minor before Judge Mark Mandio at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta. Fox is scheduled for sentencing on April 30, and faces a maximum of four years, eight months in prison, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
Fox initially was charged with three felony counts, but one of the charges was dropped because the statute of limitations for that specific offense, oral copulation with a minor, had expired, Hall said.
Fox was living in Erie, Pennsylvania, at the time of his July 2019 arrest and extradition to California to face criminal charges.
“It’s taken 30 years to get to this day. I had my doubts that I would ever get to see it,” said Fox’s victim, Kathy Durbin, in a statement Friday. She was in court Friday, where Fox was scheduled for a preliminary hearing before he pleaded guilty. “Today was not just a victory for me, it was a victory for every victim of childhood sexual abuse,” she said.
Durbin, now 45 and living in Montana, said she was thankful that the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office charged Fox, even though it had been nearly 30 years since his crimes.
The Southern California News Group typically does not publish the names of victims of sexual abuse, but Durbin has granted permission to publish her name.
Fox was one of two men arrested in connection with a sex abuse scandal at the church spanning nearly 20 years — from 1990 through 2010. The scandal was exposed in 2018 when Durbin and victims of former youth pastor Malo Victor Monteiro went public on social media with their stories. Fox’s and Montiero’s victims claim longtime church pastor Bruce Goddard and his wife, Tammy, were well aware of the sexual abuse allegations but did not report Fox or Monteiro to police. Instead, they transferred them to other churches and made the victims feel like they were to blame.
Bruce Goddard did not return a telephone call seeking comment Friday, and has never spoken publicly on the sex abuse allegations at his church.
In November 2018, Monteiro was sentenced to five years, four months in prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting three teenage girls from his youth ministry, all under the age of 18 from 2000 to 2010. His victims also made their stories public on social media in 2018.
Monteiro, now 47, has been serving his sentence at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, and is scheduled to be released from custody at the end of the month, having earned myriad credits while incarcerated, including for good behavior, for time served prior to sentencing, and for participating in various work programs, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Durbin, who is Monteiro’s sister-in-law, said she used to babysit for Fox’s family. She considered Fox a father figure, and his family like a second family, before Fox began grooming her for sex in 1990, when she was 15. She said he frequently complimented her on her looks, bought her gifts, and peppered her with kisses on the cheek and mouth. She said Fox’s advances made her feel “uncomfortable and gross,” but she didn’t want to upset Fox or jeopardize their father-daughter relationship.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, it’s very clear that he had groomed me,” Durbin said in 2019.
Durbin said when she informed Bruce Goddard of what was happening, he did not contact police, but instead transferred Fox to another church out of state. She said Goddard’s wife called her a “homewrecker.”
Fox’s attorney, Paul Grech, said in a telephone interview Friday that Fox pleaded guilty because it was “the right thing to do,” and that he takes responsibility for his actions.
“He’s carried this sense of guilt for the last 30 years, and he wants to make this right,” said Grech, adding that Fox left the ministry prior to Durbin reporting what happened to law enforcement.
“His conscience would not allow him to continue in the ministry,” Grech said. “He’s a man of conscience who made an error, and this is the opportunity to correct it, or at least to set it right as best as he’s possibly able.”
The court took into consideration Fox’s age at the time the crimes occurred — he was in his early 30s — the fact he has committed no other crimes, and has otherwise led a “productive and blameless life” ever since, Grech said. Fox plans to publicly apologize to Durbin at his April 30 sentencing, his lawyer said.
Fox, who remains free on bail, is expected to be remanded to custody at his sentencing, Hall said.