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Ex-Megachurch Worker Gets 55-Year-Prison Term

Posted at: 12/12/2012 12:00 PM
By: Leslie Dyste

A former janitor at a Tulsa megachurch engulfed in a sex-abuse scandal was sentenced to 55 years in prison Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl in the church's stairwell.

Chris Denman also was sentenced to 5 years of probation and a $12,000 fine.

Denman pleaded guilty in October to first-degree rape, forcible oral sodomy of a child, lewd molestation, making a lewd proposal to a child and two counts of using a computer to facilitate a sex crime.

He did not have a plea agreement with prosecutors and had faced up to life in prison.

Denman was accused in the August rape of a girl on the campus of Victory Christian Center, a worldwide ministry located in south Tulsa that has 17,000 members. Denman was also charged with molesting a 15-year-old girl and making a lewd proposal to a 12-year-old girl.

A second former church employee, Israel Castillo, awaits trial on a charge of making a lewd or indecent proposal to a child. Prosecutors allege that Castillo sent explicit Facebook messages to a 14-year-old girl he had known for at least two years.

Five employees of the church, including the son and daughter-in-law of Victory head pastor Sharon Daugherty, also face misdemeanor charges. They're accused of waiting two weeks to report the alleged rape of the 13-year-old girl by Denman.

John and Charica Daugherty, Paul Willemstein, Anna George and Harold "Frank" Sullivan have each pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to report the abuse in a timely manner and all have a separate hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

The 13-year-old's mother has sued the ministry, accusing employees of trying to cover up the abuse by not reporting the rape to the authorities while it did an in-house investigation. She says the church was more interested in damage control and attempting to make her daughter feel as if she was somehow to blame for the assault.

In September, after the five church employees were arrested for not reporting the abuse, the ministry issued a statement accepting blame for the delay and vowing to work with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to audit its reporting policy.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)