A former employee of a Tulsa megachurch will have to stand trial for allegedly making a lewd or indecent proposal to a child, a Tulsa County judge ruled Thursday.
Israel Castillo, a former janitor at the 17,000-member Victory Christian Center, is accused of sending explicit Facebook messages to a 14-year-old girl he had known for at least two years. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison. Castillo, 23, is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 10.
Special Judge Clifford Smith dismissed a second charge, using a computer to commit a sex crime, because both counts involved the same evidence.
Another former church employee, 20-year-old Chris Denman, pleaded guilty Oct. 29 to six felony charges, including rape, related to three underage girls. He was accused of the August rape of a 13-year-old in the church stairwell before service, molesting a 15-year-old and making a lewd proposal to a 12-year-old girl. He could face life in prison when sentenced in December.
On Thursday, Smith cleared the courtroom to allow the 14-year-old victim to testify. The second and final witness for the prosecution, Tulsa Police Det. Darren Carlock, testified that Castillo and Denman knew each other, and that Castillo told Carlock that while there were conversations of a sexual nature on the victim's Facebook feed, the pair never had sexual contact.
Carlock said he believed Castillo referred to the girl as a minor, but Castillo's attorney challenged that assertion.
"There is no testimony at all that the defendant knew the witness was under 16," defense attorney Hugh Hood told the judge. "There is absolutely no testimony to establish the defendant was aware of the complaining witnesses' age."
But the judge said the state had shown "sufficient proof" that Castillo should stand trial.
Outside the courtroom, prosecutors said they were satisfied with the decision.
"It went as expected, and the victim did an excellent job," said Sarah McAmis, director of the Crimes Against Children Division at the district attorney's office.
McAmis also said the investigation into Castillo had turned up additional witnesses prosecutors intend to put on the stand at trial. She would not say if they were also victims, describing them only as "young women."
Five employees of the church, including the son and daughter-in-law of head pastor Sharon Daughtery, also face misdemeanor charges for allegedly waiting two weeks to report the alleged rape of the 13-year-old girl. They have pleaded not guilty and are due in court next month.
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The 13-year-old's mother is suing the church and seeking more than $75,000. She claims Victory sought "damage control" rather than pursuing the case properly.