Friday, August 17, 2012

California Pastor arrested for sexually abusing two young girls

Rialto police have arrested a Compton church pastor suspected of molesting two Rialto girls for several years, one of whom was 11 years old when the alleged sexual abuse began.
Anthony Lavon Smith, 47, of Rialto was taken into custody at Carter High School about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday while he was picking up a family friend, police Capt. Randy DeAnda said. "We do believe that there are other victims at his church, and we'll be contacting the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department detective bureau to let them know about our investigation," DeAnda said. Smith has been a pastor at Jericho Baptist Assembly in Compton since April 2001, following in the footsteps of his father, Willie L. Smith, who also preached at the church, according to the church's website. Police say one of the alleged victims, now 29 years old, was 17 when she was last molested. She is a relative of Smith who now lives in a different state, DeAnda said. Police say the other alleged victim, now 17, was 11 when she was first molested. Both lived in Rialto and were members of Smith's church at the time of the incidents, police said. Rialto Unified School District officials said that none of the incidents occurred at Carter High School. But one of the alleged victims did attend a Rialto school. "Rialto Police Department collaborated with one of our students and the parent to apprehend the suspect," said district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri.

Members of Smith's family could not be reached for comment. Charlotte Jackson, who identified herself during a phone interview as Smith's former wife, declined comment. Rialto investigators said they are unaware if Smith participated in any Inland Empire organizations that put him in contact with children. He was booked into West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga on suspicion of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a child, as well as sex abuse and assault charges, DeAnda said. He was being held in lieu of $350,000 bail. In addition to his work with the church, Smith also released a CD in 2003 under the Illinois-based record label Godspoke Records called "Came Out Saved."

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