Reporting Gigi Barnett
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A former church youth leader is behind bars, charged with child sex abuse. The victims are adults now and still attending the church.
Gigi Barnett explains police say there may be more victims.
Raymond Fernandez, 49, held several positions at Greater Grace Church in Northeast Baltimore. One of them was as a youth leader in the late 1990s.
Last week, Baltimore County Police arrested and charged him with sexual child abuse of two teens. Police were tipped off to the alleged abuse when one of the victims came forward.
“The abuse occurred when the victim was a member of the church and he was part of a youth group at which the suspect was a leader,” said police spokeswoman Elise Armacost.
The victim–who is now an adult–says the abuse started back in 1997 and much of it occurred at the teen’s home and church events.
Shortly after the man came forward, a second victim did, too.
Now police fear there may be more.
“It’s also not uncommon that in cases like this that there are additional victims,” Armacost said. “We believe that there may be other victims and we’re asking people to come forward.”
“The fact that these guys came back, came out 16 years later, they were contemporaries and never told anybody,” said Greater Grace spokesman Brian Lange.
Lange says Fernandez left the church back in 2004, but the victims still attend.
The church has beefed up background checks for workers and volunteers who come into contact with children.
Lange says the message from Greater Grace is one of healing for the victims and Fernandez.
“He’s an alleged criminal at this point. We just believe that somehow God’s going to turn this around for everybody,” Lange said.
Fernandez is currently being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center.
Police say possible victims or anyone with information should call the county’s Crimes Against Children unit at 410-853-3650.
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