Church shaken by sex charges vs. ex-ass't pastor
Posted April 25, 2007
April 24, 2007
David McNulty once vouched for the then-Rev. Gerald Klever when Klever was seeking a promotion at the First Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Delaware County.
Ask McNulty today about his former associate pastor, and he'll quote a Bible verse warning that anyone who harms children should be cast into the sea with a millstone tied to his neck.
Klever, 75, was extradited this month from Arizona to Springfield on charges that he repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted girls in the youth group while serving at First Presbyterian from 1977 to 1983.
Court documents describe a middle-aged authority figure who intimidated his vulnerable victims, ranging at the time from age 11 to 17. He allegedly told one 12-year-old that "to get close to God she needed to get close to him," and allegedly forced a teen beginning when she 14 to perform oral sex on him at least 150 times over three years.
"The people with young kids were glad to have a pastor active with the kids," McNulty said of the Gerald Klever he remembers. "Now, they're all shuddering with the fear that maybe their children had been molested."
The allegations surfaced in early 2005, when a woman told First Presbyterian's interim pastor that Klever had sexually assaulted her and that she suspected she was not the only one.
At least a dozen women came forward, with four of them telling Springfield police that Klever's acts occurred in his church office, in the Poconos, and at a pool party in Springfield.
The church notified Springfield police last year and informed each of Klever's alleged victims that Detective Daniel McNeely would be handling the case.
"They have been more than cooperative throughout this whole thing and on board to do whatever it takes to make things right," McNeely said of the church leaders.
"I was totally surprised, totally shocked," said McNulty, a member of the parish since 1975. "My own children were in his youth group at the time."
As Delaware County's court-appointed master to hear cases of child abuse at the Media courthouse, McNulty is particularly outraged. He said he had "no clue" that Klever may have been up to no good - and neither did anyone else.
"We thought all was well with the world," McNulty said.
Klever is facing three counts each of rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, as well as charges of corruption of minors, indecent assault and indecent exposure. He has retained Ted Simon, a Philadelphia lawyer who served on Ira Einhorn's legal team, and is out on $250,000 bail while he awaits his preliminary hearing.
Simon said it would be premature to discuss details of the case.
Klever also left behind a troubled congregation in Washington, D.C. He resigned in 1988 as the pastor of Sixth Presbyterian Church there "after several accusations of sexual misconduct were made against him," the church's pastor, Edward Taylor, said last week.
Wilson Gunn, general presbyter of the National Capital Presbytery, which oversees the D.C. Presbyterian churches, said the allegations involved adults, not minors.
Gunn said Klever was banned in 1988 from serving in any parish and had his ordination credentials revoked in 1993. No charges were filed against him.
When Klever transferred from Springfield to Sixth Presbyterian, Gunn said, the Philadelphia Presbytery gave him a "clean report."
"We do work diligently for this not to happen," Gunn said.
Klever eventually moved from Bethesda, Md., to Tucson, Ariz., where he and his wife, Anita, became active members of the community. He resigned last month as a Democratic committeeman in Pima County, according to the minutes of the March board of supervisors meeting.
Anita Klever declined to comment last week." In Philadelphia, Anita Klever had been a news director for Westinghouse Broadcasting Co., known as "Group W."
There may not have been a case at all if Klever hadn't moved out of state. Delaware County Deputy District Attorney Sheldon Kovach will argue that Klever can still be prosecuted because the clock on Pennsylvania's statute of limitations wasn't ticking while Klever was living in Maryland and Arizona.
Pennsylvania last year extended to age 50 the time by which a victim may bring criminal charges against a sex abuser. The previous limit was age 30. But the extension applies only to abuse after the bill became law.
Back at First Presbyterian, Byron Leasure, the interim pastor, said the process has been cathartic for the 425-member congregation.
"They're feeling quite positive that this is no longer a secret," said Leasure, who in 2005 encouraged Klever's alleged victims to share their stories with a church committee.
The church has since approved a sexual-misconduct policy that mandates background checks for employees working with children. It also is installing a security system and requires two adults to be present at youth events, among other steps.
Asked about his feelings on Klever facing prosecution for acts that may have been committed decades ago, Leasure paused.
"I think justice is always preferable to the lack of justice," he said. *