"It always hits the papers when a female teacher has sex with 14- or 13-year-old boys, but when a pastor sexually abuses … young boys, it's kept quiet," said Greenwood, Mo., detective Robert Leslie.
It's Missouri's biggest clergy sex-abuse case to date, Leslie said, according to the Associated Baptist Press, but accounts of a youth minister's sexual misconduct were low-key for years until he was convicted last week of 25 counts of abuse.
Shawn Davies, 33, was hired at First Baptist Church of Greenwood in 2003, serving as the music and youth minister. He had attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., with the senior pastor, Mike Roy.
Prior to working at First Baptist, Davies had worked at several other churches. And those past employers did not give Davies favorable job references, noting Davies' addiction to pornography and that he "didn't work well with children." Still, Davies was easily hired by churches.
The Missouri Baptist Convention helps churches run background checks on employees, equipping churches with the tools and the questions. Each individual church, however, is accountable for its hiring policies, said David Clippard, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, according to the Associated Baptist Press.
Investigation of Davies began in 2001 in Kentucky after a boy told police that his youth minister showed him pornographic movies.
In July 2005, police in Missouri began investigating Davies after a boy from the Greenwood church came forward with charges of sexual molestation. From First Baptist alone, seven boys said they were abused. The detective found that at least 13 victims from Missouri, Kentucky and Michigan have come forward with allegations.
"This man is a predator," Leslie told ABP. "He is going to be a cancer to society unless he is locked up. I'm sure there are still other victims of Shawn's out there."
Davies was convicted in December 2005. He served jail time in Kentucky and was returned to Jackson County, Mo., last year.
In his latest sentence, Davies was convicted on Jan. 12, 2007, of 25 counts of abuse dating from 2003. Charges included statutory sodomy, furnishing pornographic material to minors, supplying liquor to minors, sexual misconduct with a child under the age of 14, use of a child in sexual performance and endangering the welfare of a child, according to ABP.
Under a plea-bargain deal, he will serve 20 years as concurrent sentences for crimes committed in Missouri and Kentucky.
Lee Orth, chairman of the Greenwood church's litigation committee, said the church took steps immediately when news of Davies broke.
But, "the reason why there wasn't a lot of talk about it was because of the victims," he told ABP.
The abuse was a tragedy for Davies' family and for the church, Orth said.
Leslie said he has reason to believe the First Baptist’s head pastor, Roy, may have known about some improprieties before he fired Davies.
"It was mishandled," Orth said of Roy's decision not to talk, ABP reported. "Mike felt bad because it happened on his watch. He felt bad about that."
Roy left the church and a search committee has been formed at the church to find a new pastor.
The church has yet to fill Davies' vacant position.