Pastor to serve six years for sex crimes against a child

Darrell Lee Sheets Sr., 64, a former Woodford pastor, was given a six-year active prison sentence on Oct. 9 for his guilty plea to sex crimes against a little girl.

Sheets was tried in Caroline County Circuit Court on the felony charges of taking indecent liberties with a child and aggravated sexual assault. Sheets confessed to molesting his own granddaughter, who was 9 at the time.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Diane Abato told the court that Sheets had been a pastor at Destiny Image Church and an associate pastor at Calvary Christian Church. Abato was adamant that Sheets had been an ordained minister at the time of the incident, though the defense was hesitant to accept that statement as fact.

Sheets addressed the court, stating that the reason the incident occurred was due to “curiosity,” but that it was “so stupid.” He had touched her in a sexual way and then he had her do the same to him. Sheets said that after he had molested his granddaughter, he felt ashamed and shocked at his own actions. He admitted to asking the victim “not to say anything” because he was so ashamed. Sheets concluded by stating he was “so, so sorry,” and that he believes that he “is not that man anymore.”

After witness testimonies, Abato reminded the court of the facts involved. She stated that Sheets had contact with two convicted child molesters, both members of his church. Testimony by a family member indicated Sheets had bragged about taking one of the men in to confess around the same time he committed his own act of molestation.

Sheets’ granddaughter approached her mother and told her the details of what had happened. The mother had Sheets turn himself over to law enforcement authorities and he  was arrested on Feb. 25.

Judge Patricia Kelly rejected Sheets’ argument of being “just curious.” She  sentenced Sheets to 30 years: 20 years for the aggravated sexual battery with 14 years suspended and 10 years for indecent liberties with 10 years suspended.

The terms of his release include no unsupervised contact with any minor, and no contact at all with the victim until she is 18 and wishes to have contact with him. Sheets must also register as a sex offender, and will be held to active supervision upon his release.

Some “victims are victimized over and over” and that was the case with this little girl, Abato said after the trial. On Oct. 7 in Spotsylvania Circuit Court, Phillip Wayne Williams of Fredericksburg pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery involving Sheets’ granddaughter. He received a one-year suspended sentence in a plea arrangement.

During Sheets’ bench trial, Abato called the paternal grandfather of the victim to the witness stand to testify against Sheets. The witness was the senior pastor for Calvary Christian Church. He confirmed that Sheets was an associate pastor for that church, and that he personally had ordained Sheets at the time when the name of the organization was Calvary Christian Center.

He also confirmed that sheets performed pastoral duties, such as pulpit ministries, preaching, and teaching, and that Sheets did have contact with children while serving at the church. In addition, the witness stated that he had attended services at Destiny Image Church, and could affirm that Sheets had been a pastor there as well. The witness also said, in response to a question by Abato, that Sheets had more access to the church than other people because of his position.

Abato asked the witness if he had noticed an impact on the victim since the incident. The witness responded “Yes, unquestionably,” and noted that the child was confused about her relationship with Sheets.

After the testimony given by this witness, Abato read the victim impact statements to the court, written by the victim’s father and grandmother. The father’s statement spoke of the pain and suffering inflicted upon his daughter. He wrote about how her world had been “turned upside down.” The grandmother’s statement was similar, expressing concern for the well-being of her granddaughter. She was very distraught that the victim had to live with this “very dark secret” for over a year.

The defense called two witnesses to the stand, both members of the church where Sheets had been a pastor. The first witness said he had known Sheets for over 45 years, and that he had “never noticed him doing anything wrong.” This witness told the court he had learned of the charges after Sheets had been arrested. He further stated that he would continue to be friends with Sheets, if he were to be released.

During cross-examination of the witness, Abato asked the defense witness if he had known that Sheets had a connection with two other men who had been convicted of child molestation, one whom he had personally driven to the police station to assure that he turned himself over to law enforcement authorities. The witness affirmed that he was aware of this, and that he knew the two other men who had also been members of the church where Sheets acted as pastor.

The second witness called by Sheets’ defense attorney stated that she had known the defendant for five years through the church. She described Sheets as a “very understanding person” who had a “nice demeanor.” She said she had been completely shocked when she learned of the charges Sheets was facing. She also said she did not know the other two church members who had been convicted of child molestation, but she had heard of them, and that she had been shocked by all three cases. She further affirmed that her own children had not been allowed to be alone with Sheets.

Posted on Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 3:08 pm