Two More Victims Come Forward as SK Pastor Appears on Sex Charges

Kitsap Sun, Washington/October 30, 2007

Port Orchard -- The pastor of a South Colby church made his first appearance in Kitsap County Superior Court on Tuesday on molestation and rape allegations, and two more girls — one a 10-year-old — came forward accusing him of sexual abuse.

Robbin Leeroy Harper, 60, has now been accused by a total of seven people — all females — who say he molested or raped them sometime between 1995 and 2006, when they were as young as 7, according to Kitsap County court documents in the case.

Outside the courtroom Tuesday, friends and family members of the women and girls who have come forward said Harper was "controlling" as leader of the church.

"It's been a cult down there," said John, whose granddaughter is one of the alleged victims. The Kitsap Sun is not printing his last name to align with its policy of not naming victims. "He controlled everyone."

Brenda, a former church member who wouldn't give her last name, said she once enjoyed being a member of the 60 or so member congregation. But she said Harper began to want "more and more control" from members, and so she left the church.

Brenda said she never suspected anything like this. But she's happy the girls, many of whom are now adults, have come forward.

"It's really empowered these girls," she said.

Harper, who turned himself in Monday, appeared before Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Leila Mills in green jail garb Tuesday.

Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery told Mills there is "the potential for more victims" and called Harper a flight risk in asking the judge to keep his bail at $500,000.

Harper's attorney, Thomas Weaver, said the 60-year-old was a 52-year resident of Kitsap County and a retired pastor. He said Harper had been in Eastern Washington over the weekend with his wife's family and had attempted to turn himself into the Yakima County Sheriff's Office. Because no arrest warrant had been issued for him — prosecutors hadn't filed charges creating one when Harper's name was released Friday afternoon — he wasn't arrested at that time.

"My client had every opportunity to flee the jurisdiction," Weaver said, noting he didn't — and thus he asked the court for a minimal bail amount.

Mills kept Harper's bail at $500,000, where it was set at Monday.

Prosecutors plan to file formal charges against Harper on Thursday.

The investigation of Harper began last week when one of his alleged victims, now an adult, called 911 to report a sex offense.

Many of the victims relayed similar stories to detectives, according to a probable cause statement for Harper's arrest. Allegedly, Harper would start by giving them "tight" hugs inside his office that would lead to various sexual activities. Of the seven women or girls who have come forward, detectives believe they have a case in six of the instances, with the seventh outside the statute of limitations for prosecution.

Sheriff's detectives said two more girls — one 16 and one 10 — came forward Monday alleging abuses.

The 10-year-old said when she was 8 or 9, Harper inappropriately touched her one to two times a month. The 16-year-old said at age 9, Harper began touching her inappropriately. When she was 11, she "avoided any contact with Harper to prevent future occurrence."

Another girl of unknown age was interviewed by detectives Tuesday. She, too, said Harper began giving her "inappropriate hugs" when she was 7, and it ultimately turned into sexual intercourse, with him showing her pornography from a computer and printed pictures.

The girl said she wanted to "get out of it," but Harper "would convince her that what he was doing was OK and that her sex life was a huge contributor to a successful marriage," detectives said.

On Friday, detectives served a search warrant at the property listed as Harper's home and The Church of South Colby, and seized Harper's daily planner, two receipts from his bedroom, and sofa pillows and covers from the church office where his alleged victims reported the abuse occurred, according to the search warrant affidavit.

Other allegations surfaced Tuesday in a probable cause statement by relatives of the alleged victims. A parent of one of the 20-year-olds said that Harper and his wife, Christine, had come to him last Thursday while in the church and that Harper "confessed to him that had been 'inappropriate with his daughter.'" A parent of a 24-year-old alleged victim also told detectives Harper had reportedly told the parent he'd been "inappropriate" with the daughter.

One of the church elders reported Harper had a meeting sometime last week with him and Harper told the elder that he'd been "inappropriate" with members of the church, according to documents.

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