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Pastor charged with abuse

A South Kitsap pastor who allegedly told young girls he was doing the work of God and preparing them for marriage by molesting them was charged with multiple counts of child abuse in Kitsap County Superior Court on Thursday.

Robbin Leeroy Harper, 60, a longtime pastor with The Church in South Colby, pleaded not guilty to eight counts of both first- and second-degree child molestation and rape before Judge Leila Mills and a packed courtroom. The charges stem from the statements of five victims ranging in age from their teens to their early 20s.

The first victim, now in her 20s, alleged that Harper began molesting her when she was 12 and he was her pastor at the church, according to the probable cause statement filed by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

She said the abuse, which continued until she reached 18, began as touching and quickly escalated to sex.

When she tried to tell him she did not want to do such things, she said Harper told her that she “needed to get over these feelings or she would have problems with intimacy the rest of her life,” according to the document.

The victim said she spent a lot of time at the church because she was being home-schooled, and the incidents with Harper occurred at least once a week.

She said she also noticed that Harper seemed to pay special attention to the young females in the church, and provided investigators with the names of other young girls who may also have been victimized by him.

The next alleged victim investigators talked to, a young woman who is also now in her early 20s, described a similar pattern of abuse.

She said Harper began relations with her from the time she was 12 until she turned 17 or 18, telling her he was preparing her for marriage and that he “loved only her.”

A third victim, also now in her 20s, said Harper began molesting her when she was 13.

She said she was frightened when he began touching her, and he “tried to console her by telling her (they were doing) the work of God,” according to the interviewer’s report.

Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, said a sixth victim has also come forward, but the statute of limitations had run out on the crimes Harper may have committed with her.

At both his arraignment and formal charging this week, Harper was represented by defense attorney Tom Weaver, who described his client as a retired pastor who had many ties in the community and was not a flight risk.

“He has lived in Kitsap County nearly all of his life, for 52 years, and is married and a landowner,” Weaver said when addressing the matter of Harper’s $500,000 bail.

However, Mills agreed with Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery’s concern about both the public safety and Harper’s potential to flee, and kept his bail at $500,000 and ordered him to surrender his passport.

Wilson described Harper’s church, which is in a gated complex where the defendant also lives, as nondenominational with about 60 members.

One woman who attended Harper’s first court appearance and said she was related to one of the victims but declined to give her name, said her family used to belong to the church but left it four years ago when the atmosphere became too controlling.

“(Harper) was taking more and more control,” she said, explaining that when she first joined it was a “quiet, normal” church that gradually changed.

When asked if the pastor was indeed retired, she said “that’s news to me.”

Another former church member at the courthouse, who also did not give his name, said he believed the girls’ statements and found them “credible.”

Harper’s next court appearance in an omnibus on Nov. 29.

His trial is scheduled for Dec. 24.

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