[UPDATED with Not Guilty Plea:] Joe David Nelms, Former Pastor, Accused of Molesting Girl in 1993

UPDATE, APRIL 9, 10:16 A.M.: 47-year-old Joe 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 to Orange 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.


“Oh, Coker . . .”

UPDATE, MARCH 31, 4:27 P.M.: The original version of this post has been corrected. At one point, the previous version referred to David 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 for Cinnabar 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.: The Orange 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.

March 23, 2011


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

Lou Gutierrez at (714) 347-8794.

Deputy District Attorney

Jennifer Walker of the Sexual Assault Unit is prosecuting this case.

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.

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.

CORRECTED ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 22, 7:01 A.M.: On Thursday, a man was arrested in Coto de Caza on a warrant out of Northern California alleging he molested a kid in Turlock.

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
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 groomer for 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.

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

“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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