A 67-year-old pastor who headed several churches in Southern California going back decades has been arrested on charges that he sexually molested 7 children, according to CBS Los Angeles.
John Rogers McFarland of Fullerton, California, was arrested on May 9 and charged with 7 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14, and an additional 4 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor between the ages of 14 and 15.
McFarland has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces up to 179 years in prison.
He was first arrested in Escondido, California in December after a girl reported his alleged abuse to the Fountain Valley Police Department. That allegation sparked an investigation which resulted in him being arrested a second time this May after accounts from other alleged victims came to light.
McFarland formerly served as a volunteer chaplain at the Fountain Valley Police Department.
Speaking of McFarland’s former role as chaplain, Sgt. Kham Vang said that the position is “held in high regard” with “a lot of trust.”
“This is a betrayal of that trust,” he added.
According to a church bio, McFarland is married and has 5 children and “is known for his enthusiastic and entertaining style of preaching that both inspires and educates youth as well as adults” and has a “very winsome personality, is well-spoken, engaging, and energetic.”
The alleged abuse took place between 2003 and 2017 while he was pastor at several Southern California churches. His most recent position was head pastor at Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton, a position he’s held since 2016.
McFarland’s early work in the church began in 1978 when he got a role as a youth pastor at a Methodist church in Encinitas. Just three years later, he was made senior pastor at Calexico United Methodist Church in Calexico.
He’s currently being held in Orange County Jail on $2 million bail.
Featured image: 92833.org/Orange County district attorney’s office