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Local church reacts to member’s arrest

Members of a local church where a Pierce County man charged with molesting several foster boys in his care attended services for the past year expressed fear, anger and even guilt at a meeting Sunday night, according to Rev. Melvin Byrd.

Byrd, who has been the pastor at the Port Orchard Church of Christ for more than 20 years, said the church decided to hold a meeting to first inform any members who did not know already know that a fellow churchgoer, Ronald H. Young, was arrested for allegedly molesting six young boys, ages 5 to 7, and then posting images of himself and the children engaging in sex acts on the Internet.

“Some of our members did not know,” Byrd said, explaining that once he and the other church elders told the congregation everything they knew, they wanted to give everyone a chance to vent their feelings and concerns.

“We thought that since what happened with (Young) was so significant, and so horrible, we thought it was a good idea to allow our members to talk about it,” Byrd said.

Several members said they were angry and afraid, which Byrd said was perfectly understandable. Some also expressed guilt, and said they were worried there was something they missed that they should have noticed, he said.

“I wanted them to know that we did not miss anything,” Byrd said. “If anyone missed anything, it was Washington state, because they were the ones testing and screening (Young).”

Byrd said Young’s wife of 20 years, Wendy, also attended the meeting, and spoke to the other members about her experience.

“Her life has been turned upside down,” Byrd said. “She said, and I believe, that she did not know what was going on.”

Byrd said Young never supervised children alone or with others for any church functions.

“We have to know someone for a very long time before we put them in charge of children, or even as a helper in any of the classes,” Byrd said, explaining that although he had invited Young to his house once, neither he nor anyone else at his church “really knew him well at all,” since Young and his family only started attending the church about a year ago.

Byrd said before the news of Young’s arrest broke his church had for years taken steps to ensure the safety of its young members, from performing thorough background checks on any person who might be entrusted with the care of children, to placing windows in all the doors to make sure nothing could be hidden behind them.

But no matter how many steps you take, or how many things you try to prevent, Byrd said there is simply no way of identifying everyone who might be capable of such acts.

“How could we know that someone who seemed so good on the outside, that inside, he really wasn’t?” Byrd said.

Young, 41, was arraigned Friday in Pierce County Superior Court on 30 counts of first-degree child rape, six counts of child molestation and eight counts of exploitation of a minor. He pleaded not guilty to all charges, and was held on $2 million bail.

His trial was set for May 12.

According to authorities, Young and his wife have cared for a total of 11 foster children in their home on the Key Peninsula since they obtained a license in July of 2002.

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