It is not, and has never been, just a Catholic Church problem…
Gerjets, who allegedly met the boys through Keyport Bible Church, was ailing from a longtime smoking habit and used a wheelchair.
“He held out his hands in front of him like he expected me to handcuff him,” Kitsap County Sheriff’s Detective Jennifer Rice wrote in court documents of the December 2016 interview at Gerjets’ East Bremerton house.
Rice explained to Gerjets, then 68, that his failing health was too much for the jail’s medical staff and that was what kept her from booking him.
When Gerjets requested a lawyer, Rice wrote she stopped questioning him, but she still had something to say.
“I told Gerjets that I wasn’t going to ask him any further questions and didn’t want him to even respond, but (I) wanted him to consider how he wanted to leave this world,” Rice wrote. “Either by taking responsibility for his actions or leaving a burden and weight on the boys’ shoulders for their lifetime.”
Gerjets was charged in March 2017 in Kitsap County Superior County with two counts of second-degree child molestation, to which he pleaded not guilty. He was never put on trial.
In and out of the hospital, Gerjets died April 4 at age 70.
“There was no justice,” a mother of one of Gerjets’ alleged victims told the Kitsap Sun earlier this year. Her son, now an adult, alleged in 2004 that Gerjets had inappropriately touched him. No charges were filed in that case.
Lawsuit: Church knew, or should have known
On Wednesday, three boys Gerjets allegedly met through the Keyport Bible Church — and were sexually assaulted between 2009 and 2013 — filed a lawsuit in Kitsap County Superior Court against the church and Gerjet’s widow, Andrea M. Gerjets.
The civil suit alleges that because of the 2004 allegation, the church’s pastor, Michael Chinn, and Gerjets’ widow knew or should have known that Gerjets had a “proclivity to engage in inappropriate sexual contact with minor boys” and the danger that posed. The three alleged victims are now older than 18 and are identified in the lawsuit by their initials.
A voice message left in May for Chinn was not returned. The church’s website says Chinn stepped down in January 2017 from senior pastor — shortly after the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office opened its second investigation into Gerjets — but remains with the church as a support pastor focused on the “personal shepherding” of members and missionaries.
A secretary at the church said, “No, thank you” when contacted Thursday for comment.
No one answered a call placed Thursday to a listed number for Gerjets’ house.
Police reports obtained by the Kitsap Sun through the state’s Public Records Act say Chinn reported the more recent accusations to investigators in December 2016. The documents say Chinn called police after the parents of one of the alleged victims now suing the church told him of the assaults.
Chinn told a deputy that it wasn’t the first time Gerjets was accused of having sexual contact with children, according to the report. In the past, Chinn said, Gerjets volunteered at the church and mentored children, but after the 2004 allegations, Gerjets was asked to stop volunteering, though Chinn told him he could continue attending church.
“Michael advised the reason he wanted to report Richard was because he recently witnessed Richard with younger children at church,” the deputy wrote. “Michael advised that in the past, when confronted, Richard has stated that he just likes the children and children refer to him as Mr. G.”
One of the lawyers representing the three alleged victims, Adrian Pimentel of Port Orchard, said the suit alleges Gerjets continued to have contact with youths through the church by helping them find landscaping jobs to raise money for missionary trips.
“The church knew (about the prior allegations) and didn’t tell them, even though they knew he was working with children,” Pimentel said, adding that the suit is in the preliminary investigative stage.
One of the boys told investigators that in one of the alleged assaults, his parents dropped him off at Gerjets’ property so he could perform yard work to earn money for the trip. The boy said Gerjets attempted to perform a sex act on him, as the boy told investigators Gerjets had done before. The boy told him to stop, and he ran away from the house, according to the statement to investigators. Gerjets followed him in his truck and told him he couldn’t tell anybody and implored him to come back.
2004 allegation resulted in no charges
No charges were filed for the alleged assault disclosed in 2004 following an interview with authorities where the alleged victim gave vague or short answers, according to documents.
The mother of that boy — he is now an adult — told the Kitsap Sun he was terrified and conflicted during the interview, something other boys mentioned to investigators: They cared for Gerjets. For some, he was the supportive, engaged male figure they never had. Some were torn over whether to report him or to wait until he died before saying anything, according to documents. Several other boys who spent time with Gerjets at his house and were contacted by investigators did not allege any inappropriate sexual conduct.
The mother of one of the boys who is suing told an investigator she had heard about the 2004 allegation, “But nothing ever came of the complaint so she didn’t think too much of it,” according to a Dec. 15, 2016, police report.
Law enforcement interviews with church members and those who knew Gerjets say he was a surrogate grandpa to boys interested in hunting, fishing and woodworking. He had been described as a well-liked and trusted member of his church congregation, according to police reports.
If Gerjets liked children, reports say it only seemed to be boys, and only boys of a certain age: late elementary school, early middle school. And he often had the boys over to spend the night in a treehouse he built behind his East Bremerton residence, stocked with snacks and a TV. Some boys told investigators there was pornography available, along with alcohol and cigars. And he seemed to offer a lot of shoulder rubs.
One alleged victim who spent the night at Gerjets’ property said the shoulder rubs were “often.”
“He said they would wake up in the morning to Mr. G massaging their backs,” an investigator wrote. “Mr. G would just be in there waiting with his coffee.”
Parents were often grateful that Gerjets would offer to babysit, teach their sons new skills and give them gifts. However, as parents talked with each other, they would ask if everything was OK, if this was normal. After Gerjets bought her son a pair of $200 hunting boots and gave him a gun, one mother checked with Gerjets’ wife about all the boys spending time at the house.
“She would say that Rick wasn’t a very good dad (to his own son, now an adult) and this was his second chance to give back, and they were like family to him,” an investigator wrote.
The boy’s mother couldn’t shake her suspicions though. “She always had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right,” an investigator wrote.
News, sports, business, opinion and information across the Kitsap Peninsula brought to you by the Kitsap Sun.