News

Sequim man found guilty of child sex crimes

Steven G. Welty, former pastor of the Glory House Church in Sequim, was found guilty of six counts of first-degree child rape, six counts of first-degree child molestation and six counts of incest Oct. 6 in Clallam County Superior Court.

Judge S. Brooke Taylor listened to evidence and testimony provided by Deputy Prosecutor Ann Lundwall for two days after Welty, 59, waived his right to a jury trial Oct. 4.

John Hayden, representing Welty on behalf of the Public Defender's office, did not present any evidence or testimony for the defense and Welty, who wore an orange jumpsuit and chains around his waist, arms and feet. Welty did not take the stand or speak during any point of the trial.

Lundwall's witnesses included Welty's now-14-year-old victim, who testified the sexual abuse started when she was 4 years old and continued until she was 11.

Three other relatives, including the victim's mother, testified for the prosecution. The Sequim Gazette does not identify victims of sexual crimes. To protect the identity of the victim, the Gazette will not name the victim's mother or other relatives who testified.



Testimony

The victim testified the abuse started when she was 4 and was visiting Welty at his Sequim home with her older brother during a school vacation. The two children would visit Welty and his wife once or twice a year for several days at a time without their parents, she said.

After his wife left for work, Welty came in to the guest bedroom where the children slept, woke the victim and took her into his bedroom where he took off her pants and performed sexual acts on her using his hands and mouth, she said.

The victim said she remembers him telling her he loved her and that it was a secret.

The same sexual abuse continued at least once every year for six years until she told him to stop, she said.

It wasn't until this summer, while having a "sex talk" with her mom that she felt she could tell her what happened, the victim said.

The victim's mother testified the same sexual acts were committed on her by Welty starting around the same age.

The mother never had told anyone about the abuse before her daughter confided in her, Lundwall said.

Another relative testified she was similarly sexually abused by Welty. Lundwall showed the court a photo of the woman at 6 years old when the sex act allegedly occurred and a photo of the victim at 4 years old, when her abuse began.

"There is an uncanny physical resemblance between the victim and another related victim when the abuse started," Lundwall said.

The sexual abuse committed on the mother and other relative could not be prosecuted because the Washington state statute of limitations had passed.



Recorded

phone calls

Lundwall played five recorded phone calls where Welty is confronted about the abuse. The first four were recorded through the Clallam County Sheriff's Office and the fifth phone call was made from Welty's jail cell to his wife. All phone calls made by inmates, except attorney-client calls, are recorded.

In the first recording Welty is confronted for the first time by the victim's mother. He denied any molestation occurred.

"I can't believe you did this to my baby," the victim's mother cried on the recording.

Welty's denial shifted in the second recording, where he admitted he has done "a lot of things that aren't good."

"I was loving her and it went too far," he said.

Welty told the victim's mother he has "never, ever gone outside of the family" and that he has prayed about what happened and stopped being a pastor because of it.

"I've expressed my love in a weird way," he said. "You know that."

He said he and the victim were just "blowing on each others bellies" playfully and he went down too far.



Defense closing argument

While the defense did not present any evidence or witnesses, Hayden's closing remarks attempted to poke holes in the prosecution.

"He takes her (the victim) out of the bedroom and her brother doesn't even notice?" Hayden said. "That's a huge red flag here."

Hayden said it was "troubling" the victim's mother would let her children stay with Welty when she also claimed she'd been abused.

As for the recordings, Hayden said "he (Welty) said it got out of hand once. Try as they might, they can't get more out of Steve."

The verdict

Taylor announced his verdict Oct. 6 after deliberating overnight and through the morning. Taylor said he believes the charges brought against Welty are just "the tip of the iceberg" and there were probably dozens of such occasions during the victim's life.

Taylor said he was struck by the testimony of the victim, who recalled the abuse with extraordinary detail, retained a good demeanor and had an excellent choice of words.

"She is one of the most credible teenage witnesses I've had the pleasure to listen to," he said, later adding "There is no evidence she had any reason to lie or exaggerate."

Taylor said he also was struck by the absence of denial by Welty aside from the initial phone call.

"When confronted, he tried to feign shock and disbelief but quickly relented when pressed and tried to minimize what happened," he said.

Taylor said the testimony provided by the mother and other female relative described "shockingly similar" acts and while it was not essential to the case, it provided corroboration.

Welty is scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Nov. 16 in Clallam County Superior Court. Rape of a child in the first degree and first-degree child molestation are both Class A felonies, punishable by up to life imprisonment. Incest in the first degree is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years incarceration.

Lundwall said based on Welty's offender score under state guidelines he faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.



Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequim

gazette.com.

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