A former assistant at Shekinah Fellowship was convicted Monday of molesting two girls who were under the age of 14 and that he had met through families who attended the Lake Forest church.
Branden Edward Shumate had pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14, with a sentencing enhancement allegation for committing lewd acts upon multiple victims, but jurors found the 37-year-old resident of Koloa, Hawaii, guilty.
Shumate could be sentenced to up to 45 years to life in state prison and mandatory lifetime sex offender registration at a scheduled March 25 hearing in Westminster.
The Orange County District Attorney’s office breaks down the crimes:
Between Sept. 13, 1997, and Sept. 12, 1998, then 18-year-old Shumate worked as an assistant in the church where his father Tilson Shumate was a pastor. The younger Shumate organized a summer 1997 church trip to Wild Rivers water park in Irvine, and a family member dropped off a 6-year-old girl to go along. After she fell asleep waiting for other children to arrive, Shumate molested her with his finger. The crime was not reported at the time.
Between Sept. 12, 1998, and Sept. 13, 2003, Shumate remained in contact with the girl’s family. She did not want anything to do with Shumate, but she found herself alone with him between Sept. 13, 2003, and Sept. 12, 2005, when he helped her family move their belongings to a different residence. By then 12 years old, the girl was in a vehicle with Shumate driving behind her family’s moving truck when he pulled into an empty parking lot and forced her to orally copulate him. Again, the girl did not report the crime.
Once in 2006, Shumate tried to contact the girl, but shortly after that he moved to Hawaii with his family. Meanwhile, the girl told a family member and a friend about the sexual attacks, and an attorney retained by the family member contacted the Riverside Sheriff’s Department, which began investigating this case before transferring to it to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD).
In August 2010, Shumate was alone with a 10-year-old girl and tried to engage in sexually explicit talk with her. Between August 2010, and March 31, 2011, the girl’s family moved into Shumate’s family’s home, where on one evening between Dec. 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011, he entered the bathroom where she had taken a shower and sexually assaulted her as she toweled off.
In August 2011, the girl’s family moved to Alaska, where she told her mother about the crime, which was then reported to her local police department in Alaska, which began investigating this case before transferring it to OCSD.
Shumate was arrested by the Honolulu Police Department and extradited back to Orange County.
Shekinah Fellowship spun out of the Calvary Church in Long Beach. Pastor Tilson Shumate had said his personal friends included 1970s Jesus Movement leaders Lonnie Frisbee and Brant Baker, who both struggled separately with same-sex attraction and ultimately died of HIV-AIDS.