How Mormon officers let it occur


BISBEE, Ariz. (AP) — MJ was a tiny, black-haired woman, simply 5 years previous, when her father admitted to his bishop that he was sexually abusing her.

The daddy, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an admitted pornography addict, was in counseling along with his bishop when he revealed the abuse. The bishop, who was additionally a household doctor, adopted church coverage and referred to as what church officers have dubbed the “assist line” for steerage.

However the name provided little assist for MJ. Attorneys for the church, broadly generally known as the Mormon church, who employees the assistance line across the clock informed Bishop John Herrod to not name police or youngster welfare officers. As an alternative he saved the abuse secret.

“They stated, ‘You completely can do nothing,’” Herrod stated in a recorded interview with regulation enforcement.

Herrod continued to counsel MJ’s father, Paul Douglas Adams, for an additional yr, and introduced in Adams’ spouse, Leizza Adams, in hopes she would do one thing to guard the kids. She didn’t. Herrod later informed a second bishop, who additionally saved the matter secret after consulting with church officers who keep that the bishops had been excused from reporting the abuse to police underneath the state’s so-called clergy-penitent privilege.

Adams continued raping MJ for as many as seven extra years, into her adolescence, and in addition abused her toddler sister, who was born throughout that point. He incessantly recorded the abuse on video and posted the video on the web.

Adams was lastly arrested by Homeland Safety brokers in 2017 with no assist from the church, after regulation enforcement officers in New Zealand found one of many movies. He died by suicide in custody earlier than he may stand trial.

The Related Press has obtained almost 12,000 pages of sealed information from an unrelated youngster intercourse abuse lawsuit in opposition to the Mormon church in West Virginia. The paperwork supply probably the most detailed and complete look but on the so-called assist line Herrod referred to as. Households of survivors who filed the lawsuit stated they present it’s a part of a system that may simply be misused by church leaders to divert abuse accusations away from regulation enforcement and as a substitute to church attorneys who could bury the issue, leaving victims in hurt’s manner.

The assistance line has been criticized by abuse victims and their attorneys for being insufficient to shortly cease abuse and defend victims. But the Utah-based religion has caught by the system regardless of the criticism and growing scrutiny from attorneys and prosecutors, together with these within the Adams case.

“‘I simply assume that the Mormon church actually sucks. Severely sucks,” stated MJ, who’s now 16, throughout an interview with the AP. “They’re simply the worst kind of individuals, from what I’ve skilled and what different individuals have additionally skilled.”

MJ and her adoptive mom requested the AP to make use of solely her initials partially as a result of movies of her abuse posted by her father are nonetheless circulating on the web. The AP doesn’t publish the names of sexual abuse survivors with out their consent.

William Maledon, an Arizona legal professional representing the bishops and the church in a lawsuit filed by three of the Adams’ six kids, informed the AP final month that the bishops weren’t required to report the abuse.

“These bishops did nothing mistaken. They didn’t violate the regulation, and due to this fact they’ll’t be held liable,” he stated. Maledon referred to the go well with as “a cash seize.”

In his AP interview, Maledon additionally insisted Herrod didn’t know that Adams was persevering with to sexually assault his daughter after studying of the abuse in a single counseling session.

However within the recorded interview with the agent obtained by the AP, Herrod stated he requested Leizza Adams in a number of periods if the abuse was ongoing and requested her, “What are we going to do to cease it?”

“A minimum of for a time period I assumed they’d stopped issues, however — after which I by no means requested in the event that they picked up once more.”


The Adams household lived on a lonely filth highway about 8 miles from the middle of Bisbee, an previous copper-mining city in southeastern Arizona identified at present for its vintage outlets and laid-back perspective. Removed from prying eyes, the Adams dwelling — a three-bedroom, open idea affair surrounded by desert — was usually suffering from piles of clothes and containers of lubricant Adams used to sexually abuse his kids, in line with authorized paperwork reviewed by the AP.

Paul’s spouse, Leizza, assumed many of the child-rearing duties, together with getting their six kids off to highschool and chauffeuring them to church and spiritual instruction on Sundays. Paul, who labored for the U.S. Border Patrol, spent a lot of his time on-line taking a look at porn, usually along with his kids watching, or wandering the home bare or in nothing however his underwear.

He had a brief fuse and would incessantly throw issues, yell at his spouse and beat his youngsters. “He simply had this explosive character,” stated Shaunice Warr, a Border Patrol agent and a Mormon who labored with Paul and described herself as Leizza’s greatest buddy. “He had a horrible mood.”

Paul was extra relaxed whereas coaxing his older daughter to carry a smartphone digital camera and file him whereas he sexually abused her. He additionally appeared to revel within the abuse in on-line chat rooms, the place he as soon as bragged that he had “the proper way of life” as a result of he may have intercourse along with his daughters every time he happy, whereas his spouse knew and “doesn’t care.”

He would later inform investigators the abuse was a compulsion he couldn’t cease. “I received into one thing too deep that I simply couldn’t pull myself out of,” he stated. “I’m not making an attempt to say the satan made me do it.”

The Adams household was deeply concerned within the Mormon neighborhood, and on Sundays they attended providers in Bisbee. So Adams turned to his church, and to Bishop Herrod, when he sought assist and revealed his abuse of MJ.

Herrod later informed Homeland Safety agent Robert Edwards he knew from the beginning that Leizza Adams was unlikely to cease her husband, after he referred to as her into the counseling periods. The bishop, who was additionally Leizza’s private doctor, stated she appeared “fairly emotionally useless” when her husband recounted his abuse of their daughter. The bishop additionally acknowledged the hurt being completed to MJ. “I doubt (she) will ever do properly,” he stated in his recorded interview with Homeland Safety brokers.

Herrod additionally informed Edwards that when he referred to as the assistance line, church officers informed him the state’s clergy-penitent privilege required him to maintain Adams’s abuse confidential.

However the regulation required no such factor.

Arizona’s youngster intercourse abuse reporting regulation, and related legal guidelines in additional than 20 states that require clergy to report youngster intercourse abuse and neglect, says that clergy, physicians, nurses, or anybody caring for a kid who “moderately believes” a toddler has been abused or uncared for has a authorized obligation to report the knowledge to police or the state Division of Youngster Security. But it surely additionally says that clergy who obtain details about youngster neglect or sexual abuse throughout religious confessions “could withhold” that info from authorities if the clergy decide it’s “cheap and mandatory” underneath church doctrine.

In 2012, when Herrod rotated out of his place as bishop of the Bisbee ward — a Mormon jurisdiction just like a Catholic parish — he informed incoming Bishop Robert “Kim” Mauzy concerning the abuse within the Adams family. As an alternative of rescuing MJ by reporting the abuse to authorities, Mauzy additionally saved the knowledge inside the church.

In a separate recorded interview with federal brokers obtained by the AP, Mauzy stated church officers informed him he ought to convene a confidential disciplinary listening to for Adams, after which Adams was ex-communicated in 2013. Mauzy and different church leaders nonetheless didn’t report Adams to the police.

Two years later, in 2015, Leizza Adams gave beginning to a second daughter. It took her husband simply six weeks to start out sexually assaulting her, recording the abuse, and importing the movies to the web.

The revelation that Mormon officers could have directed an effort to hide years of abuse within the Adams family sparked a legal investigation of the church by Cochise County Lawyer Brian McIntyre, and the civil lawsuit by three of the Adams kids.

“Who’s actually liable for Herrod not disclosing?” McIntyre requested in an AP interview. “Is it Herrod,” who says he adopted the church legal professionals’ instruction to not report the abuse to authorities? “Or is it the individuals who gave him that recommendation?”


Relating to youngster sexual abuse, the Mormon church says “the primary accountability of the church in abuse instances is to assist those that have been abused and defend those that could also be susceptible to future abuse,” in line with its 2010 handbook for church leaders. The handbook additionally says, “Abuse can’t be tolerated in any type.”

However church officers, from the bishops within the Bisbee ward to officers in Salt Lake Metropolis, tolerated abuse within the Adams household for years.

“They only let it hold occurring,” stated MJ, in her AP interview. “They only stated, ‘Hey, let’s excommunicate her father.’ It didn’t cease. ‘Let’s have them do remedy.’ It didn’t cease. ‘Hey, let’s forgive and neglect and all this may go away.’ It didn’t go away.”

An identical dynamic performed out in West Virginia, the place church leaders had been accused of overlaying up the crimes dedicated by a younger abuser from a distinguished Mormon household even after he’d been convicted on youngster intercourse abuse costs in Utah. The abuser, Michael Jensen, at present is serving a 35- to 75-year jail sentence for abusing two kids in West Virginia. Their household, together with others, sued the church and settled out of court docket for an undisclosed sum.

“Youngster abuse festers and grows in secrecy,” stated Lynne Cadigan, a lawyer for the Adams kids who filed go well with. “That’s the reason the necessary reporting got here into impact. It’s a very powerful factor on the planet to instantly report back to the police.”

The lawsuit filed by the three Adams kids accuses The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a number of other members, together with Bishops Herrod and Mauzy, of negligence and conspiring to cowl up youngster intercourse abuse to keep away from “expensive lawsuits” and defend the fame of the church, which depends on proselytizing and tithing to draw new members and lift cash. In 2020, the church claimed roughly 16 million members worldwide, most of them dwelling outdoors america.

“The failure to forestall or report abuse was a part of the coverage of the defendants, which was to dam public disclosure to keep away from scandals, to keep away from the disclosure of their tolerance of kid sexual molestation and assault, to protect a false look of propriety, and to keep away from investigation and motion by public authority, together with regulation enforcement,” the go well with alleges. “Plaintiffs are knowledgeable and imagine that such actions had been motivated by a need to guard the fame of the defendants.”

Only a few of the scores of lawsuits in opposition to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints point out the assistance line, partially as a result of particulars of its operations have been a intently guarded secret. The paperwork within the sealed court docket information present the way it works.

“The assistance line is actually there to assist — to assist the church hold its secrets and techniques and to cowl up abuse,” stated Craig Vernon, an Idaho legal professional who has filed a number of intercourse abuse lawsuits in opposition to the church.

Vernon, a former member, routinely calls for that the church require bishops to report intercourse abuse to police or state authorities somewhat than the assistance line.

The sealed information say calls to the assistance line are answered by social employees or skilled counselors who decide whether or not the knowledge they obtain is severe sufficient to be referred to an legal professional with Kirton McConkie, a Salt Lake Metropolis agency that represents the church.

A doc with the heading “Protocol for abuse assist line calls,” which was among the many sealed information obtained by the AP, laid out the questions social employees had been to ask earlier than figuring out whether or not the calls ought to be referred to the legal professionals.

Mormon officers within the West Virginia case stated they didn’t acknowledge the Protocol and couldn’t authenticate it. However a rating church official in a separate intercourse abuse lawsuit in Oregon confirmed that these answering the assistance line used a “written protocol” to information them.

“There can be a web page containing varied subjects to debate and deal with,” stated Harold C. Brown, then director of the church’s Welfare Companies Division.

The Protocol instructs these staffing the assistance line to inform callers they’re to make use of first names solely. “No figuring out info ought to be given.” Underneath the heading “Excessive Threat Instances,” it additionally instructs staffers to ask a sequence of questions, together with whether or not calls involved attainable abuse by a church chief, an worker, or abuse at “a church-sponsored exercise.”

The protocol advises these taking the calls to instruct a “priesthood chief,” which incorporates bishops and stake presidents, to encourage the perpetrator, the sufferer, or others who know of the abuse to report it. But it surely additionally says, in capital letters, that these taking the calls “ought to by no means advise a priesthood chief to report abuse. Counsel of this nature ought to come solely from authorized counsel.”

That counsel comes from attorneys from Kirton McConkie, which represents the church.

Joseph Osmond, one of many Kirton McConkie legal professionals assigned to take assist line calls, stated in a sealed deposition that he’s at all times able to take care of intercourse abuse complaints.

“Wherever I’m. The decision involves my mobile phone,” he stated. He then acknowledged that he didn’t refer calls to a social employee and wouldn’t understand how to take action.

Osmond declined to remark by means of church officers. Peter Schofield, a Kirton McConkie lawyer lengthy related to the assistance line, additionally declined to reply questions from the AP.

Maledon, the legal professional for the church within the Adams lawsuit, stated church clergy or church attorneys have made “lots of of experiences” of kid abuse to civil authorities in Arizona over an unspecified variety of years. However he couldn’t say what number of calls to the assistance line weren’t referred to police or youngster welfare officers and couldn’t present a referral fee.

Two church practices, recognized within the sealed information, work collectively to make sure that the contents of all assist strains calls stay confidential. First, all information of calls to the assistance line are routinely destroyed. “These notes are destroyed by the tip of on daily basis,” stated Roger Van Komen, the church’s director of Household Companies, in an affidavit included within the sealed information.

Second, church officers say that each one calls referred to Kirton McConkie legal professionals are coated by attorney-client privilege and stay out of the attain of prosecutors and victims’ attorneys. “The church has at all times regarded these communications between its legal professionals and native leaders as attorney-client privileged,” stated Paul Rytting, the director of Threat Administration, in a sealed affidavit.


Mormon leaders established the assistance line in 1995 and it operated not inside its Division of Household Companies, however as a substitute in its Workplace of Threat Administration, whose function is to guard the church and members from damage and legal responsibility in an array of circumstances, together with fires, explosions, hazardous chemical spills and extreme climate. The division finally experiences to the First Presidency, the three officers on the very prime of the church hierarchy, in line with information within the sealed paperwork.

Threat administration additionally tracks all intercourse abuse lawsuits in opposition to the church, in line with a sealed affidavit by Dwayne Liddell, a previous director of the division who helped set up the assistance line. He stated members of the church’s First Presidency knew the main points of the assistance line.

“I’ve been in these kind of conferences the place … the coaching of ecclesiastical leaders (and) the institution of a assist line have been mentioned,” Liddell stated. When requested who attended the conferences, he answered, “Members of the First Presidency and the presiding bishopric,” or the highest leaders of the church.

Earlier than establishing the assistance line in 1995, the Mormon church merely instructed bishops to adjust to native youngster intercourse abuse reporting legal guidelines.

On the time, youngster intercourse abuse lawsuits had been on the rise and juries had been awarding victims tens of millions of {dollars}. The Mormon church is essentially self-insured, leaving it particularly susceptible to expensive lawsuits.

“There may be nothing inconsistent between figuring out instances which will pose litigation dangers to the church and complying with reporting obligations,” church legal professionals stated in a sealed authorized submitting.

However one affidavit within the sealed information which repeatedly says the church condemns youngster sexual abuse, additionally suggests the church is extra involved concerning the religious well-being of perpetrators than the bodily and emotional well-being of younger victims, who additionally could also be members of the religion.

“Disciplinary proceedings are topic to the best confidentiality attainable,” stated Rytting. “If members had any issues that their disciplinary information could possibly be learn by a secular decide or attorneys or be introduced to a jury as proof in a public trial, their willingness to admit and repent and for his or her souls to be saved can be severely compromised.”


In 2016 police in New Zealand arrested a 47-year-old farm employee on youngster pornography costs and located a nine-minute video on his mobile phone, downloaded from the web, displaying a person in his 30s raping a 10-year-old woman.

A world seek for the rapist and his sufferer was on. It began with Interpol and led to the U.S. State Division, the place investigators utilizing facial recognition know-how matched the rapist with a passport card picture of a U.S. Border Patrol worker dwelling in Bisbee, Arizona, in line with a Homeland Safety synopsis obtained by the AP.

Brokers rushed to the Naco, Arizona, Border Station and arrested Adams, then a lanky, bearded mission assist specialist with the Border Patrol. After some coaxing, Adams admitted to raping MJ and to sexually assaulting her youthful sister, and to posting video of the assaults on the web. When brokers raided his dwelling, they seized telephones and computer systems holding greater than 4,000 photographs and almost 1,000 movies depicting youngster intercourse abuse, many that includes the Adams daughters.

However the nine-minute video stood out. “This video is without doubt one of the worst I’ve ever seen,” Homeland Safety agent Edwards later testified, including that haunting dialogue between Adams and his older daughter helped make the video “stand out in my thoughts and proceed to face out in my thoughts.”

That video represented 9 minutes and 14 seconds in seven years of continuous and pointless trauma for MJ — and a lifetime of abuse for her tiny sister — whereas Bishops Herrod and Mauzy and church representatives in Salt Lake Metropolis stood by.

After Paul Adams died by suicide, Leizza Adams pleaded no contest to youngster intercourse abuse costs and served two-and-a-half years in state jail. Three of the Adams kids went to stay with members of Leizza’s prolonged household in California. The opposite three had been taken in by native households.


MJ’s little sister was solely 2 when she met her adoptive mom for the primary time. The toddler wrapped her legs and arms round Miranda Whitworth’s head, buried her face in her neck, and refused to look as much as say goodbye to members of Leizza’s household. “It was the craziest factor,” stated Whitworth who, together with her husband, Matthew, welcomed the toddler into their household. “It was like once you see a child monkey or child gorilla cling to their mom, they usually simply received’t let go.”

Over the following few days and weeks, the Whitworths would see extra markers of the unfathomable abuse the toddler endured by the hands of her father — a lot of it recorded on video. She would howl in terror when any man tried to the touch her, whether or not it was Matthew or the household doctor. “The nurse was tremendous however the minute the physician walked in she climbed onto me and began screaming bloody homicide,” Miranda stated.

The two-year-old was additionally frightened of the water, which made bathing an ear-splitting ordeal. She wouldn’t tolerate something wrapped round her wrists. And at church, she would run and conceal behind Miranda every time anybody greeted her by an previous household nickname.

Once they took within the toddler, neither Miranda nor Matthew knew very a lot about what had occurred to her. However whereas sitting in on Leizza Adams’s sentencing listening to, they realized concerning the repeated rapes, the movies, and the truth that church bishops knew concerning the abuse of the older daughter and did nothing to cease it.

The Whitworths had been converts to the Mormon religion and, like many new followers of a faith, they had been particularly obsessed with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Particularly, they appreciated the efforts Mormons make to assist fellow church members in instances of want by means of church organizations established to provide particular consideration to ladies, teenagers and youngsters.

“It’s all about household,” Miranda stated. “That’s one of many issues we completely liked.”

However after studying about what Adams did to their new daughter, and the failure of the church to cease him, the scales fell from their eyes. “We determined to take away our information from the church,” stated Matthew Whitworth. “I personally couldn’t proceed to supply tithing cash to a church that might enable younger kids to be abused and never do something to forestall it.”

Not like the Whitworths, Nancy Salminen has by no means been a member of the Mormon church. However as a particular wants instructor and a rape sufferer herself, she has a particular affinity for MJ and others like her. Over the past 5 years, she has opened her dwelling to 17 women and boys who wanted a secure place to remain. Her home is a modest, ranch-style construction she purchased out of foreclosures.

“All the pieces’s a bit of damaged right here and that’s good as a result of so are we,” she stated.

Salminen stated she met MJ after receiving an pressing name on a Friday night to rescue a 12-year-old from one other household. “She was fairly scared and fairly confused once I picked her up,” Salminen recalled. “She spent numerous time in her closet in her room after we received dwelling, however we received to know one another and received to love one another.”

Just like the Whitworths, Salminen knew little or no about what MJ had endured till Leizza Adams’s sentencing listening to.

“What I heard made me need to throw up,” she stated. “And the extra I realized the extra I needed to assist her struggle this struggle that she didn’t even learn about.”

Safely settled in Salminen’s family — which at present features a foster woman Salminen additionally plans to undertake — MJ has been reworked from a sufferer of unimaginable abuse to a bubbly 16-year-old who performs in the highschool band and proudly dons a crisp, new uniform for her job at a fast-food restaurant.

“She had each excuse to fail and to simply fold into herself and run away,” Salminen stated. “However as a substitute, she got here again stronger than anybody I’ve ever identified.”

So sturdy that she seems desirous to play an energetic function within the battle she and her two siblings are waging in opposition to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I simply need them to do what they’re presupposed to do and report back to the police,” MJ stated.

The adoptive mother and father of the third Adams youngster who has filed go well with declined to talk to the AP concerning the case. Like MJ, Miranda and Matthew Whitworth stated they joined the lawsuit in opposition to the church on behalf of their younger daughter not in hopes of a payday, however to alter church coverage in order that any occasion of kid sexual abuse is instantly reported to civil authorities. “We simply don’t perceive why they’re paying all these legal professionals to struggle this,” Matthew Whitworth stated. “Simply change the coverage.”


That coverage is the important thing to the church’s protection. In a current submitting asking a Superior Courtroom decide to dismiss the case, Maledon and different legal professionals for the church stated the case “hinges completely on whether or not Arizona’s youngster abuse reporting statute required two church bishops … to report back to authorities confidential confessions made to them by plaintiffs’ father.”

No matter ethical or public coverage arguments one may make that the church ought to have informed authorities that Paul Adams was raping his daughters are irrelevant, the legal professionals argued. “Arizona’s reporting statute broadly exempts confidential communications with clergy, as decided by the clergyman himself,” in line with the church movement to dismiss the case. “Affordable individuals can debate whether or not that is the very best public coverage alternative. However that’s not a problem for a jury or this court docket.”

Bishop Herrod, in his recorded interview, stated church officers informed him he needed to hold what Adams informed him confidential or he could possibly be sued if he went to authorities.

However McIntyre, the Cochise County legal professional, stated that’s false, noting the Arizona reporting regulation says that anybody reporting a perception that youngster intercourse abuse occurred “is immune from any civil or legal legal responsibility.”

Other than the authorized arguments over whether or not Bishops Herrod and Mauzy had been excused from their reporting obligations underneath the clergy-penitent privilege, critics of the inaction by the 2 bishops and the broader church have raised moral points.

Gerard Moretz, a seasoned youngster intercourse abuse investigator for the Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff’s Division and an professional witness for the Adams kids, is one in every of them.

“What facet of your spiritual apply are you advancing when you don’t report one thing like this?” he requested.


Related Press editor Brady McCombs in Salt Lake Metropolis and investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this story.

To contact the AP’s investigations group, electronic mail


Related Press faith protection receives assist by means of the AP’s collaboration with The Dialog US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely liable for this content material.



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