A former youth pastor in Oregon was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison on Thursday for sexually assaulting two boys.
Dylan Ritterman, 28, pled guilty to sexual abuse charges for assaulting the boys, who were teenagers under his ministry at United Pentecostal Church in Hillsboro. His plea agreement stipulated that he will not be charged in connection with assaulting a third boy, the Oregonian reports.
Authorities began investigating Ritterman last fall, after one of the victims told his mother Ritterman had been touching him inappropriately, and the mother reported the crime to Oregon’s Department of Human Services. Police arrested Ritterman last December.
Prosecutor Kevin Barton said that the former pentecostal pastor had molested two boys, starting when they were 14 or 15 years of age, “inside the church, on church grounds, at his home, in his car, and in a grocery parking lot.”
Barton also said that church leaders were reluctant to cooperate with investigators. The church’s head pastor initially refused to speak to authorities without his insurance agent there.
However, Barton added, the pastor eventually “revealed that he had known” about Ritterman’s actions, and identified one of the victims
Barton later told the Oregonian that he was unsure whether he would have been able to proceed with charges involving the third victim, who has difficulty communicating because he of certain developmentally disabilities.
The third alleged victim’s mother said in court that she believes Ritterman began preying on her son about two years ago, when the child was 16 years old and the pastor was 26.
Ritterman expressed remorse during his sentencing hearing, saying, “There are no words that can fix or express how deeply sorry I am for what I’ve done. And my only hope and prayer is that there can be healing and restoration to all parties that have been involved. Sorry is not enough to say.”
On Friday, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests released a statement “[urging] Portland’s religious leaders to shun officials” at Bethel United, and “[urging] local law enforcement to charge those church officials with obstructing justice, evidence tampering, witness intimidation or other offenses because of how they dealt with a predatory pastor.”
On its website, Bethel United says its mission is “to give every person that we meet an opportunity to find Apostolic Bible Salvation. We want to see them experience repentance, water baptism in Jesus’ Name and the gift of the Holy Ghost just like the church did in the book of Acts. It is our goal to be a warm, friendly church where people experience Jesus and are ready when He returns.”
Clicking on Bethel United’s “youth ministry” page brings up an error notification: “Access denied. You are not authorized to access this page.” The page can be seen below: