Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pastor accused
Witness recounts assault by pastor
By Chad Nation
« Crime/CourtsShare Advertising
COUNCIL BLUFFS — An 18-year-old woman said she didn’t tell anyone that her pastor had sexually assaulted her because she was afraid no one would believe her.

The teen testified Tuesday in the trial of Efrain Umaña. Umaña, 55, is charged with second-degree sexual abuse, third-degree sexual abuse and two counts of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse. He is accused of forcibly having sex with the witness in 2003, when she was 11 years old.

Umaña also is accused of forcing a woman who was a member of his Council Bluffs church, Templo Monte Horeb, to have sex with him and of making unwanted sexual advances toward two other parishioners.

During opening statements, Assistant Pottawattamie County Attorney Shelly Sedlak said the case is about “power and control.”

“(Umaña) used his position and authority as a pastor to abuse members of his church,” Sedlak said. “They trusted Mr. Umaña. He was their pastor, and he violated their trust.”

The teen testified that she was not only a parishioner, but also a friend of Umaña’s daughter. She said the three of them drove from Omaha to the Council Bluffs church sometime in 2003 to help Umaña look for missing keys. The girl said that when they arrived at the church, Umaña’s daughter stayed in the vehicle while the two of them went inside to search for the keys.

But there were no missing keys, she said.

“I was in the sound room, and he came in. He didn’t mention anything about the keys anymore. He closed the door, and he locked it,” the witness said as she fought back tears. “He told me I had to take off my clothes, and I said, ‘No,’ and he said, ‘Do it.’ Then he pulled down his pants.”

The girl said Umaña lifted her skirt and removed her underwear and began to have sexual intercourse with her. She said he stopped only after she said his daughter would come in and see them. After the assault, she said, he drove her home and she didn’t tell anyone.

“It was going to be my word against the pastor’s,” she said, and everyone liked and trusted the pastor.

The teen told her parents only after another pastor found out about the alleged assault.

She said she is talking with a psychiatrist, but the event has changed her. She said she became shy and quiet and had trouble with contact with other men. “I never hugged my dad because I felt disgusted,” she said.

Umaña’s attorney, Bill McGinn, told the jury in his opening statement that no physical evidence corroborates the stories of the teen or the other three women.

“This is how accusations come about, once a little girl reports something, then it spreads and takes on a life of its own,” McGinn said. “It’s easy at that point to say, ‘Oh, yeah, he did that to me, too.’”

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