5 Jehovah’s Witness members charged with sex crimes after grand jury investigation

PITTSBURGH — Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry announced five more members of the Jehovah’s Witness organization have been charged with sex crimes. The arrests come after a grand jury investigation, where 14 men have been charged over the last year.

“All five men have the trust of the victims and their families. And all five men were members of the Jehovah’s Witness congregation, and many of them gained access to the victims through this organization,” Henry said in a Friday press conference.

Two of the men are from Western Pennsylvania.

Terry Booth, who is currently living in Panama City, Florida, was charged in Allegheny County. Shaun Sheffer, of Butler County, was also charged.

Investigators say Booth gained the trust of a 16-year-old boy when they were members of the former Kingdom Hall in White Oak.

The grand jury indictment says Booth took it upon himself to “mentor” the teen, which included inappropriate sexual touching at first. Investigators say the two had sexual discussions which Booth claimed were spiritual guidance. He is also accused of providing alcohol before sexually assaulting the teen.

Sheffer is accused of raping a girl between 50 and 75 times, starting when she was 7 years old.

Attorney General Henry calls the crimes sad and disturbing, saying they used their faith community and family to find their victims. “I am thankful to the courageous survivors who are willing to share their horrific abuse, I am inspired by their strength,” Henry said.

We reached out to the Jehovah’s Witnesses leadership. They gave WPXI this statement:

“We are not permitted by law to comment on specific matters arising out of the grand jury investigation. That having been said, the news of someone being sexually abused, whether a child or an adult, sickens us. Child sexual abuse in particular is a twisted act of evil. That is why for decades Jehovah’s Witnesses have gone to great lengths to educate and warn parents through our publications, meetings, and website, about how to protect their children in a variety of circumstances. We also are quick to support and offer pastoral care to those affected, while working to ensure that unrepentant perpetrators are removed from the congregation. Anyone who has been victimized has the full support of the congregation to report the matter to the authorities.”

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