Reverend Jonathan Lamont Jenkins is staring down his third strike and the lengthy prison sentence that comes with it after being arrested on Tuesday for the sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl at a Santa Ana church. The 56-year-old Riverside man, who once ran a soul food restaurant in West Anaheim, faces felony counts of committing lewd acts and aggravated sexual assault on a child under 14.
Prosecutors note that Jenkins served as a youth pastor at Starlight Baptist Church in Santa Ana, a position that allowed him to gain trust with children, during the time of the alleged crimes. He stands accused of first touching the 12-year-old girl on the buttocks in January. In March, Jenkins followed by reportedly holding the girl against her will while he sexually assaulted her in a church bathroom.
The victim’s family contacted Santa Ana police on Sunday. By that time, the pastor is alleged to have committed additional lewd acts on the girl after her 13th birthday.
When running Papa’s Fish and Soul Food, Jenkins touted the restaurant as a testament to having put his past troubles behind him. His criminal record shows two prior felonies including convictions for robbery in 1983 and burglary in 1986. Under the state’s three-strikes law and with five felony counts now against him, Jenkins faces 90 years to life in state prison if convicted.
Law enforcement believes possible additional victims may exist. Anyone with additional information is being urged to contact Santa Ana Police Department detective Nick Vega at (714) 245-8368, or Orange County District Attorney’s Office Supervising Investigator Eric Wiseman at (714) 347-8794.