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Virginia State Police asked to investigate Calvary Temple

A growing group of former Calvary Temple congregants are calling for an investigation into alleged sexual abuse at the Sterling Pentecostal church to be turned over to Virginia State Police, citing a conflict of interest, as one of the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office deputies is a member of the congregation.

Ex-members say they believe Sgt. Kevin Robinette, who is a member of Calvary, represents a conflict of interest and there's no way to completely isolate him from the investigation, although sheriff's office officials say they have succeeded in doing so.

“Early on we looked at isolating the majority of the division … there's a very limited number of people who have access to the reports,” said Maj. Richard Fiano. “We did that specifically because of the issue involving Kevin Robinette.”

Still, there's growing concern among not only former Calvary members, but the Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.

In a July 31 letter to Sheriff Mike Chapman from Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Nicole Wittmann, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, Wittmann recommends that the state police take over the investigation.

“I am certain that you are aware of the recent concerns by members of the community as to the relationship of that deputy and Calvary Temple Church,” Wittmann wrote. “While I have no doubt that the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office is qualified to handle the investigation and have confidence your agency has appropriately insulated this investigation from that deputy, it will serve to raise the confidence of the public for an unrelated agency, such as the Virginia State Police, to conduct the investigation.”

Fiano, in an email back to Wittmann, also obtained through a FOIA request, said he consulted with the state police and “they basically told me they didn't have the manpower to handle that investigation but if we needed assistance [they] would try and help out.”

Wittmann said in the email that turning the case over to a grand jury remains a viable option.

Re-opened case

The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office has been investigating incidents of alleged sexual abuse at Calvary since March – the same time the Loudoun Times-Mirror published the women's accounts of abuse they say they endured for years as children at the hands of Calvary's administration and teachers.

One of the women, Chassadi Thompson, said she first reported the sexual abuse in 2003. Members of the church's leadership told Thompson then that because she came forward they would have to report the allegations to law enforcement. The incident, according to Thompson, was reported to Robinette.

The investigation was eventually closed for unknown reasons, and a request to see the case file in March by the Times-Mirror was denied because officials said it had been re-opened as new information had surfaced.

In 2003, Robinette was a unit sergeant in what is now the Criminal Investigations division, which handles cases of alleged sexual assault, according to Fiano.
Fiano said Robinette turned Thompson's report over to a detective for investigation.

In addition to sexual abuse, former members of the church say they've witnessed countless incidents of physical and mental abuse, with families being broken apart through divorce should one member disagree with the church's teachings. Many who have been “shunned” from the church or left on their own accord, say they haven't seen or spoken to their children in years.

'I'm on duty 24-7'

The growing debate on whether the state police should take over the case took a new twist Aug. 22 during Calvary's annual car show.

Former members protested at the event – as they do every Sunday across the street from the church's Triple Seven Road location.

It was during this time that Gary Foster, who spent decades in the church with his family, said Robinette was at the car show as a member of the church.
Foster said his wife, Marsha, was accused by Robinette of taking down a Calvary sign. Robinette, he said, told him that if the sign wasn't returned in 10 minutes he would call deputies to file a report.

“I'm on duty 24-7,” Robinette said to the protesters, according to Foster.

Former members complained about the issue to a detective working the sexual assault cases.

Fiano said Robinette is no longer a member of the Criminal Investigations division, but the appropriate department is addressing the issue.

The incident has led former members to become discouraged that arrests will never be made.

“Kevin Robinette is a big reason why [we're calling for the state police to take over],” said former Calvary member Michelle Freeman. “It just seems like since we've been dealing with this … we're getting two different stories from deputies … How many more families are being destroyed there? Are there children being sexually, physically and mentally abused? I believe there are.”

A complicated investigation

In addition to the call for an outside agency, some former members believe the investigation is taking too long.

They also question why, since he is a member of the church, Robinette has not been interviewed about what goes on inside its walls.

“Based on [Robinette's] actions on [Aug. 29], I think he believes he's above the law,” said Yvonne Toone, who grew up in the church. “I'm just concerned that things are not moving forward.”

Both Chapman and Fiano said the investigation is complicated and will take time since there are multiple alleged victims and perpetrators.

“Investigations like these take a long period of time,” said Chapman. “We have to conduct a lot of interviews, and trying to get people to recall memories from 15 to 20 years ago makes it complex.”


Related coverage:

-Spiritual warfare at Sterling’s Calvary Temple church
-Calvary Temple's emotional warfare
-UPDATE: Community protests Sterling’s Calvary Temple church amid allegations of sexual abuse
-Calvary Temple’s contentious history
-Protests against Sterling’s Calvary Temple heat up
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