A Santa Ana youth pastor was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of violently sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in his church’s bathroom during a service earlier this year, police said.
Jonathan Lamont Jenkins, a 57-year-old Riverside resident, allegedly began harassing the girl at the beginning of 2018, making sexual advances toward her when she was just 12 years old, Santa Ana police said in a news release.
The victim attends Starlight Baptist Church, at 1201 W. Second St., where Jenkins has worked as a youth pastor for the last two years. The suspect has been a parishioner there since 2012, officials said.
The sexual assault occurred sometime this March, after the victim went to use the restroom during service.
The girl entered a bathroom she thought was empty and found Jenkins inside, waiting for her, according to police. She then tried to escape, but he allegedly held her against her will.
Jenkins is accused of strangling and sexually assaulting her after threatening her with physical violence.
The girl didn’t immediately come forward to authorities with her story, and continued attending the same church.
When she saw Jenkins there on Aug. 5, he allegedly confronted her and mocked her about the sexual assault. He also told her he would tell police she allowed him to sexually assault her if she reported the incident, investigators said.
Officials did not say when exactly the assault was reported.
Once it was, an investigation was launched. Detectives said they obtained evidence against Jenkins, but didn’t provide details on what it entails.
The suspect was arrested Tuesday as he was going into a liquor store in Santa Ana, police said.
He was being held on suspicion of aggravated sexual assault of a child and other child abuse crimes at the Orange County Jail on $1 million bail.
Jenkins also has a “long criminal history,” according to Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, who said his previous convictions include robbery, burglary, criminal threats and narcotics violations.
Because of that, and other factors, detectives believe the youth pastor could have additional victims, Bertagna said.
“The way he handled this child, in the manner he handled this child, in the location he handled this child, leads them to believe that potentially there are other victims out there,” he told KTLA.
Anyone with information can contact Detective Nick Vega at 714-245-8368 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous tips may be submitted via Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-847-6277.