[UPDATED with Not Guilty Plea:] Joe David Nelms, Former Pastor, Accused of Molesting Girl in 1993
47-year-oldJoe David Nelms pleaded not guilty Friday to eight felony counts related to the sexual assault of a then-14-year-old girl he met while serving as a youth pastor in San Clemente in 1993.
Nelms, who was extradited toOrange County from Texas, returned to Orange County Jail after the arraignment hearing. He is being held in lieu of $200,000 bail pending a pretrial hearing and bail review scheduled for May 2.
He could get up to 22 years in state prison if convicted of the charges of molesting the girl over a three-year period in his car, home and Pacific Coast Church office.
UPDATE, MARCH 31, 4:27 P.M.:
The original version of this post has been corrected. At one point, the previous version referred toDavid Montano, who was picked up in Coto de Caza earlier this month on a child-molestation arrest warrant out of Turlock, as a "horse trainer." Later in the same item, the 45-year-old was identified as a
"horse groomer" at Coto Valley Equestrian Center. Both descriptions are false.
Montano formerly worked as a groomer forCinnabar Equestrian Operations, LLC, which manages Coto Valley Equestrian Center. His employment was terminated last year. He was never one of the center's professional horse trainers.
OC Weekly and your gentle servant regret the errors.UPDATE, MARCH 23, 11:39 A.M.:
TheOrange County district attorney's office (OCDA) is reaching out to the public to find potential victims of a former Orange County youth pastor accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old female parishioner in 1993. Joe David Nelms, 47, who is awaiting extradition in a Texas jail cell, allegedly molested the girl over a three-year period in his car, home and office at Pacific Coast Church in San Clemente.
UPDATE, MARCH 22, 3:22 P.M.: The Orange County Board of Supervisors this morning approved the first reading of an ordinance aimed at keeping sex offenders out of county parks and recreation areas.
March 23, 2011
OCDA SEEKS PUBLIC'S HELP IDENTIFYING POTENTIAL ADDITIONAL VICTIMS OF YOUTH PASTOR WHO SEXUALLY ASSAULTED 14-YEAR-OLD FEMALE PARISHIONER IN 1993
SANTA ANA - The Orange County District Attorney's Office is seeking the public's help identifying potential additional victims of a former Orange County youth pastor who sexually assaulted a 14-year-old female parishioner in 1993. Joe David Nelms, 47, Formerly of San Clemente, is charged with eight felony counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 and faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in state prison if convicted. Nelms was arrested March 18, 2011, in Lindale, Texas, on an Orange County warrant and is being held without bail. He will now face extradition proceedings in Texas. Upon his extradition to Orange County, the People will be requesting Nelms be held on $200,000 bail. His arraignment date is to be determined.
In 1993, Nelms met 13-year-old Jane Doe while working as a youth pastor at Pacific Coast Church in San Clemente. The defendant was 29 years old at the time. Over a three-year period, Nelms is accused of sexually assaulting the victim at the church and in a car by rubbing her vagina and breasts over and under her clothing.
In 2011, Jane Doe reported the sexual assault to law enforcement after being encouraged by a friend, in whom she had confided about the abuse by the defendant. Nelms was arrested at his home in Texas on March 18, 2011, and is in custody in the Smith County jail.
Nelms was a youth pastor at Pacific Coast Church in San Clemente from 1990 to 2000. At the time of his arrest, the defendant was a volunteer Bible study teacher at First Baptist Church in Lindale, Texas, and a counselor for high school-aged children at Sky Ranch, a Christian camp and ministry. His whereabouts after leaving San Clemente and prior to arriving in Texas are unknown at this time.
Based on evidence obtained in the investigation, it is believed that Nelms may possibly have additional victims. The Orange County Sheriff's Department investigated this case and the investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Lou Gutierrez at (714) 347-8794.
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker of the Sexual Assault Unit is prosecuting this case.
The board asked District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who proposed the new law along with Supervisor Shawn Nelson, to tweak the ordinance so sex offenders can apply for waivers if they, say, attend a wedding at a county facility.
It is scheduled to return for a final board vote next month. It would go into effect 30 days after final approval.
But a representative from the Oklahoma-based Sex Offenders Network told the board the proposed ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution and will be overturned if it is ever taken to court, reports Patch.com's Nisha Gutierrez-Jaime.
On Friday, a Texas youth pastor was arrested on a warrant out of Orange County alleging he molested a girl in San Clemente for three years beginning in 1993.
This morning, the Orange County Board of Supervisors considers a proposed ordinance aimed at keeping sex offenders out of county parks and recreation areas.
David Montano, 45, was stopped for an alleged traffic violation in the 23400 block of Vista del Verde in Coto de Caza when deputies discovered he was wanted on a 2008 warrant from the Turlock Police Department.He is accused of three counts of lewd acts on a child, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department, which had him in custody awaiting extradition to Turlock.
Montano had previously worked as a horse groomerfor Cinnabar Equestrian Operations, LLC, which manages Coto Valley Equestrian Center. His employment was terminated last year.
Youth pastor Joe David Nelms, 47, who was working as a volunteer teacher at a Baptist church in Lindale, Texas, is accused of having molested a girl who was under 14 in his then-car, then-home and then-office at Pacific Coast Church in San Clemente. He was awaiting extradition back to Orange County.
His alleged victim, who now lives on the East Coast, disclosed the acts to a counselor, who urged her to inform authorities. That led to an OC investigation and, ultimately, a case against Nelms.
Besides the church school, Nelms was also working at Sky Ranch in Texas, prompting the Christian camp to release this statement Monday afternoon:
Sky Ranch recently became aware of the situation regarding Joe David Nelms and the incident that is reported to have allegedly occurred in California approximately 15 years ago. His alleged behavior runs counter to everything for which our ministry stands, and Joe David Nelms is no longer an employee of Sky Ranch.
We fully recognize the responsibility we have to create a positive and healthy environment for kids and, as such, utilize extensive employee-screening processes. Additionally, we have conducted an internal investigation related to this particular situation. Based on this investigation, we have no reason to believe that any activities of this type occurred while Mr. Nelms was employed by Sky Ranch.
The safety of our employees and guests has been and continues to be of the highest priority, and Sky Ranch remains fully committed to making a positive difference for the campers and families we serve.
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Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas on March 14 announced that he and county Supervisor Shawn Nelson had drafted the proposed ordinance that "creates a safety zone" to protect children from registered sex offenders.
Under the proposal, registered sex offenders caught in designated county recreational areas where children regularly gather would be subject to misdemeanor charges. Violators could be punished with up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.
"I applaud Supervisor Nelson for taking this step to help protect the children of Orange County," Rackauckas said in announcing the proposal. "Registered sex offenders should not have the right to go into parks and places where children gather. Parks do not belong to sexual deviants. Parks belong to children who want to play there and parents who want to enjoy nature with their children."
"Parents and children should expect that county parks are free from sexual predators," Nelson says in the same statement. "This ordinance gives our law-enforcement personnel the tools they need to keep our parks free from threats. I've worked closely with our district attorney to craft this ordinance designed to ensure the safety of our children."
The law would apply to nearly 60,000 acres of parkland and open space, including regional and wilderness parks, nature preserves, recreational trails, historic sites, harbors, and beaches where children regularly gather. These include: Arroyo Trabuco Park, Carbon Canyon Regional Park, Clark Regional Park, Craig Regional Park, Featherly Regional Park, Irvine Regional Park, Laguna Niguel Regional Park, Mason Regional Park, Mile Square Regional Park, O'Neill Regional Park, Orange County Zoo, Peters Canyon Regional Park, Santiago Regional Park, Harriett M. Wieder Regional Park, Yorba Park, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, Caspers Wilderness Park, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park, Talbert Nature Preserve, Aliso Beach Park, Capistrano Beach Park, Newport Harbor, Salt Creek Beach Park, Sunset Beach Park, Dana Point Harbor, and Sunset Harbour.
The board meeting begins at 9 a.m. at the Orange County Hall of Administration, 10 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana. If the board approves the ordinance on first reading, it will come back for a final vote on April 4.
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