Even before Joshua and Jordan Earls were formally charged with making child pornography and child molestation in 2013, it should have been obvious to the Garland church where they worked that something was awry, one of their victims says.
Josh moved to Texas to work as a youth minister at the Arapaho Road Baptist Church in 2008, and his brother "Jordy" followed him the next year. They quickly fell into favor with the kids in the youth group and their parents. They paid particularly close attention to several teenage girls, attention that would eventually lead to criminal charges.
They gave the girls gifts and cards, one girl identified only as "Jane Doe 103" says in a lawsuit, and picked the girls up from school without telling their parents. The brothers also held an exclusive "book club" meeting for the girls at the apartment they shared together and offered to give Doe private guitar lessons. From there, the brothers moved into "inappropriate full-body hugs" and other sexual touching.
It escalated from there. Finally, two years ago now, the brothers were arrested. Joshua Earls pleaded guilty and last year was sentenced to 12 years in prison on child pornography charges for "sexting" with a 16-year-old girl. His brother also pleaded guilty on molestation and child pornography charges, and faces his sentencing on this month.
But while the brothers' alleged child abuse has been well-covered in local media, Jane Doe 103 says that Arapaho Road Baptist Church could or should have known what the brothers were up to much sooner. So on Thursday Jane Doe 103 filed a lawsuit against the church, alleging that officials were told about the brothers' behavior as mush as four years before they were charged.
"Beginning in 2009, Doe 103's mother and father had complained to ARBC's leadership about what they viewed as Josh's inappropriate conduct, especially with young girls, including giving them rides (unaccompanied by another adult) and placing childish, profane and perverted messages in church bulletins and on social media," Doe says in the suit. "The leadership at ARBC told them they would 'talk' to Josh about their concerns, but there is no evidence they did."
"They were obviously paying an inordinate amount of attention to the adolescent girls in the group and I think that should have been a red flag to the church officials," says Tahira Merritt, Jane Doe's attorney.
The church referred questions about the suit to Carolyn Alvey, the vice president of public relations at Aardvark Communications. She sent over a written statement:
We were made aware of a lawsuit being filed against ARBC, but have not been served papers as of yet. Now that a lawsuit has been filed, this matter will be turned over to the attorneys.
From the moment the church learned of these allegations, ARBC has been transparent and open about the situation with our staff, congregation, students, investigators and the community. This is the only way healing can truly happen. We ask the community to join us in prayer for all those involved.
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