Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pastor charged for raping three teen girls

Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, someone used purple paper to cover the windows of ‘N Time Music Productions on South Third Street in downtown Renton.

Later Thursday a truck with Watson Security was parked outside.

Late Wednesday, camera crews stood in front of the music store, used as a backdrop for TV reports on third-degree rape and third-degree child-molestation charges filed against Royce Clenton Shorter, 54, of Tacoma.

Shorter is the store’s owner and a music teacher. He’s also Pastor Shorter, who conducts Sunday services in the building for his Ecclesia Community Church.

According to charging documents filed Feb. 3, Shorter has been a minister since 2007.

On Feb. 17, Shorter is to be arraigned on the three charges. He is free on $25,000 bail.

Prosecutors allege in charging papers that Shorter had sex multiple times with a girl – one of his music students – in Seattle and Tacoma for two years, starting in July 2006 when she was 15.

The girl, who is now 19, took voice lessons from Shorter at his music studio in Seattle. She and her mother filed a police report last August with the Seattle Police Department. A friend had told her to contact police after hearing her story.

Shorter is described in court documents as a family friend.

Requests for comment from Shorter were left on his phone.

According to prosecutors, Shorter was convicted of second-degree statutory rape in 1985 involving a 13-year-old girl who was a member of a choir he directed in Seattle.

However, he was given a deferred sentence. That sentence was revoked in 1987 when he contacted his victim, according to Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the King County Prosecutor’s Office. Shorter then served 20 months in prison; he was released in January 1990.

Had Shorter been released a month later, he would have been subject to the new state Community Protection Act, which requires the registration of sex offenders, Donohoe said.

In 1993 Shorter was acquitted of charges he molested a 15-year-old girl he met at church where he taught music lessons.

The music store and recording studio is at 410 S. Third St., a building that once housed the Renton Flower Shop.

Bill Gaw, an owner of Cugini’s Florists and Fine Gifts across the street, would hear music coming from the church on Sunday’s when he came to feed his cats. “The place would be packed,” he said.

Gaw saw Shorter earlier this week at the music store.

A paper sign promoting piano and voice lessons hangs in the window as does the mission of Shorter’s ministry.

Shorter was interested in leasing a building Gaw owns next door to his floral shop that’s now occupied by a salon. Shorter had arranged to sublet the space, Gaw said.

Gaw said it was his understanding that Shorter wanted to move his business there.

“He was very confident. He was very self-assured,” said Gaw of Shorter. “He acted like a pastor.”

The church’s mission is outlined on its website.

“With open arms, in the name of Jesus, we welcome all who have experienced trouble because of past failures and pain.”

Shorter is founder and executive director of RCSM-Royce Clinton Shorter Ministries. According to the website, he founded the Northwest Connection Community Choir and is “one of the key figures in the gospel music community.”

A graduate of the University of Washington, he was studying to complete a masters of divinity degree, according to the website. The site also says he is a volunteer program supervisor for the Washington state Department of Corrections.

There was no indication of anything in Shorter’s past, Gaw said.

“Everything on his website was believable,” Gaw said.

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