In Washington state lawsuit, Idaho sisters accuse then-church pastor of sexual abuse
Laura Bauer and Judy Thomas, Idaho Statesman
Published at | Updated at
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) – A man who runs three Christian reform schools in Missouri is the subject of a lawsuit in Washington state that accuses two churches where he was the pastor of failing to protect sisters who say he molested them.
The civil suit, filed in the Superior Court of the State of Washington, alleges that the churches knew their pastor, David Bosley, was grooming and then sexually abusing the three sisters for several years beginning as early as 1996 but did nothing to stop it or protect future victims.
“Each defendant had a duty to warn or protect foreseeable victims including plaintiffs,” the lawsuit says. “Each defendant breached both the statutorily prescribed duty and the common law duty of reasonable care by failing to report its knowledge of Bosley’s sexual abuse of children to authorities.”
The lawsuit against the Washington churches was filed on Feb. 4 on behalf of the three sisters, who now all live in Idaho. It said the grooming of the three began when the oldest sister was 14.
The Idaho Statesman generally does not name victims of sexual abuse.
“My clients are incredibly brave women who have suffered in ways they didn’t even know they had suffered until recently,” Idaho attorney Melanie Baillie, who represents the sisters, told The Star. “And the churches failed to protect them from Bosley and now they feel like they need to stand up and they need to speak.”
Bosley, 57, came to Missouri from Washington and opened his first boarding school for boys in 2007, according to corporation documents. He now operates three Master’s Ranch Christian Academy sites in Oregon County in far southern Missouri, including one he opened last September in Thayer for girls ages 9 to 17.
Bosley said he was “appalled” and “shocked” after reading the lawsuit on Tuesday.
“I categorically deny the truth of those things,” he said.
The Washington state lawsuit comes as Missouri legislators consider implementing state oversight of unlicensed schools like Bosley’s. The Show-Me State is one of just two — South Carolina is the other — that allows a religious exemption from licensing without any further regulations.
On Wednesday, members of the House Children and Families Committee will hear testimony in Jefferson City on bills that would, for the first time, require these facilities to adhere to certain safety and fire codes, conduct background checks on employees and notify the state of Missouri of their existence.
The hearing — and the legislation — follows reporting by The Star over the past several months that showed the unlicensed schools have flourished in Missouri because of its lack of oversight. The state’s failure to track or regulate these schools has allowed decades of abuse and neglect to stay hidden, child advocates, former students and parents have said.
Bosley also operated a Master’s Ranch West boarding school in Prescott, Washington, but it was closed last May after state child welfare workers investigated allegations of child abuse and neglect.
As that investigation was underway, Bosley opened Master’s Ranch at Belle Vie in Thayer, Missouri. The school took in its first student in September and now has more than a dozen girls in the program, according to photos on its Facebook page.
Baillie, the sisters’ attorney, said it is “tragic” when institutions fail to report suspected child abuse because it “enables abusers to continue to violate.”
The grooming led to the eventual sexual abuse of each sister, the lawsuit alleges. Bosley told the girls that he was their “daddy” and demeaned their biological father, who introduced the family to the pastor’s church, according to the lawsuit.
Two of the girls said he gave them “promise rings” and told them to save themselves for marriage. The youngest girl was 12 when she said Bosley began grooming and molesting her, and it lasted until she was 19, the suit says.
“I decided to come forward, because Bosley is still out there running children’s programs,” the oldest of the three sisters said in a news release about the lawsuit. “He needs to be stopped.”
GROOMING THEN ALLEGED ABUSE
The girls began attending First Bible Baptist Church in 1996 when Bosley was the pastor. The name of the church changed to Prairie Baptist three years later and then to Blessed Hope Baptist in 2001, more than two years after Bosley had left, according to the lawsuit.
Bosley also ran the church’s school and was elected as the church board president. In approximately 1997, the suit says, Bosley started the school in his basement.
The biological father of the sisters attended Bosley’s church, and when the girls — then ages 10, 12 and 14 — moved to the area in 1996 with their mother, the entire family began going as well. Soon after they got there, the girls and their mother moved into an apartment.
Not long after, the lawsuit says, the Bosley family moved into the same complex.
“Immediately after the plaintiffs met Pastor Bosley, he began to use his position in the church to insinuate himself to the plaintiffs’ family,” the suit says.
The girls became involved in the church’s social activities and attended services on Sunday and Wednesday nights, including a youth group. Bosley was in charge of the activities, the lawsuit says.
Later in 1996, Bosley arranged for his wife, Tresa, and the girls’ mother to travel out of state as part of a ministry, the suit says. And while they were gone, Bosley required the sisters to stay with him.
He told them that he could be their father because their biological dad was “not really a father,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Pastor Bosley became a ‘hero’ to plaintiffs, treating them like ‘daughters,’ ” the lawsuit says. “Pastor Bosley would emphasize that it was important to have a ‘close relationship’ with him as their ‘father.’”
After the oldest sister had a brief stay in the hospital at the end of 1997, the Bosleys convinced the family — with the church’s knowledge and consent — to allow the daughter to recover at the pastor’s home, the suit says. The day after the girl got there, Tresa Bosley went out of town.
Bosley told the teenager that she should not be afraid to change her clothes in front of him because she was “his little girl,” the lawsuit says.
After a week or two, the sisters’ mother demanded that her oldest daughter be returned home. Bosley refused, the suit says, and the mother then called police and obtained their help in returning her daughter.
Soon after, Bosley ordered church members to remove the teen and another sister from their mother. Church members then tried to wrestle the girls away from their mom in the parking lot of their townhouse, but eventually gave up and fled, the lawsuit says.
Bosley continued to try to persuade them to live with him.
“He told them to stay strong because it was Satan attacking and fighting to keep him from being their father,” the suit says.
At one point — after involving the courts — the Bosleys obtained temporary custody, only for a judge to order the girls be returned to their mother. And then, months later, with the support of church members, Bosley ended up getting all three of them, the suit says.
The mom reached out to the former pastor of the church to seek his help in getting her girls back.
“(That pastor) advised that what was happening with the plaintiffs had happened before,” according to the suit.
In addition to sexual abuse, which intensified over the years, the sisters said Bosley also physically hurt them, whipping them with a belt on numerous occasions, the suit says.
The church board discharged Bosley from his duties as pastor in the spring of 1999, requiring him to vacate the church’s property, the lawsuit says. Bosley relocated to the Calvary Baptist Church of Prosser, Washington, where he was pastor and president of the board from 1999 until 2000. He also ran the church’s school in the church basement. The lawsuit alleges that he continued to sexually abuse each of the sisters during that time.
Within that first year, church members questioned him about his relationship with the sisters. “Pastor Bosley represented that he had adopted plaintiffs, and no one was allowed to ask the plaintiffs any questions about it,” the suit says.
The lawsuit said he instructed and threatened the sisters to never speak of their biological parents to anyone and to say that he had adopted them as babies.
Church officials confronted him and subsequently “discharged” him in 2000.
“Each defendant protected Bosley from being exposed for pedophilia, ephebophilia, and other wrongful conduct with plaintiffs, including failing to report each plaintiff’s child abuse to the proper authorities,” the suit says, “and enabling the perpetrator to continue to sexually harm plaintiffs.”
Bosley started another church nearby, and it was dissolved in March 2004. He eventually came to Missouri, where he would open a religious boarding school for boys.
TWO CHURCHES LEFT IN ‘SHOCK’
Noel Little, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of Prosser, said that he was served a copy of the lawsuit at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
“This is completely all new stuff to me,” Little told The Star. “When I started reading this, I told my wife it’s like reading a sexual novel. It’s kind of a shock to me. I know nothing about any of these accusations or anybody involved with it.”
Little said he came to Calvary Baptist in 2003, long after Bosley left.
“I knew that he (Bosley) was a previous pastor, but I never met him,” Little said. “He was just here for a couple of years. We’ve only got one member of the church that was here when he was a pastor.”
Little said his church is part of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“We’re a real small church, and when I say small, on Sunday morning I had eight people there,” he said. “We’re struggling like everybody else.”
He said he wasn’t familiar with Blessed Hope Baptist in Tenino, about a four-hour drive away.
At that church, Dawn Carrillo, wife of pastor Norman Carrillo, said Tuesday morning that they didn’t know anything about a lawsuit. They hadn’t been served.
And she said she didn’t understand why their small church, which hasn’t had Bosley as its pastor in more than two decades, would be named as a defendant. They have nothing to do with it, she said.
“This church is totally reorganized,” Dawn Carrillo told The Star. “We’re not those people. Our church members didn’t know those people. … This is the very first time in my time here that I have ever heard anything about this.”
Dawn Carrillo said her husband filled in at Prairie Baptist Church after Bosley left in 1999. Norman Carrillo drove 2½ hours from their home to help out and preach each week in Tenino. Eventually, he became the full-time pastor and the church changed its name in 2001 to Blessed Hope Baptist.
At some point after settling in, Dawn Carrillo said they realized that the church was in debt. Her husband took a full-time job to begin paying it off, she said, and then they learned of more debt left behind by Bosley.
Tuesday’s news was devastating, she said.
“All we’ve done is struggle all of these years because of his misdoings,” Dawn Carrillo said. “Now I have to look for a letter that we’re being sued because of him. We can’t afford to go to court. We can’t afford to go to a lawyer. … I’m in such shock right now.”
The lawsuit says the three sisters have suffered extensive damages that include “physical and emotional injuries, pain and suffering, loss of faith/distrust of organized religion and interpersonal relationship problems.”
Baillie, the attorney, said the churches Bosley led were part of “a very small community in the state of Washington. And it would have been very easy to verify even the most basic information about Bosley and his inappropriate behavior and the red flags that were flying, and they didn’t.
“They really failed these girls.”
Allison Stormo of the Tri-City Herald in Washington contributed to this report.