|Rev. Harriger in happier days before his arrest by State Police on sex abuse charge.
|George Harriger, pastor's son who lead the effort to file charges against his father.
|Rev. Harriger talks to children.
It was a family affair.
Now it has become a legal affair and a public one.
On Nov. 27, the Rev. Roy Harriger, 70, pastor of the Community Fellowship Church in Hartland (Niagara County) was arrested by State Police and charged with incest, sodomy and course of sexual conduct against a child.
The multiple charges stem from incidents alleged to have occurred in 2000- 2001 with his grandchildren, aged 7 and 9, in the Town of Yates, Orleans County.
The sentencing ranges are 10 to 25 years for sexual conduct and sodomy; the incest charge carries a term of up to seven years.
HIS SON TURNED HIM IN
George Harriger, 48, the uncle of the alleged victims, and one of Rev. Harriger's sons, led the charge against his father, a man who had no prior criminal record, and is married to George's mother, Darlene.
George told state police he was abused as a child in the 1970's.
In New York State, the statue of limitations for child sex abuse is five years beyond the victim's 18th birthday. The statute of limitations had long expired.
George said he never spoke out before because, he was "threatened growing up" and he thought he was "the only one." His father said that 'I'm a pastor, no one's going to believe you," George claimed.
But when George told his family, he said, he was surprised by their reactions.
"All of a sudden, my family members are calling me and the stories that are just throwing me for a loop. I never even imagined that it went this big," George told a local media outlet.
DAUGHTER IN LAW ASKS HER YOUNG ADULT CHILDREN
In the wake of this, George's sister-in-law, Teresa Harriger, 40, decided to ask her adult children if they had been abused.
"I did not give them a name," Teresa said. "I did say … 'I want to ask you some questions and I want you to be honest with me. Have you ever been touched (inappropriately) by anybody?' My son balled up his fist and he started crying, and he said, 'yes.' … He said 'grandpa.'…"
Teresa's children were within the five year statute of limitations window.
OTHER VICTIMS ALLEGED BY POLICE
While the number of victims is “approaching 10,” said New York State Police Lt. Kurt Schmitt, while announcing the arrest of Rev. Harriger, "unfortunately, we only have two (victims) in New York State that we’re able to prosecute, based on the laws.”
Other crimes were alleged to have been committed in New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania, between 1974 and 2003.
Rev. Harriger was pastor of First Church of the Nazarene in St. Joseph, Mich., from 1980-1984. He was a minister at Mercer Church of the Nazarene in Mercer County, Pa., in the 1990s. He was pastor of the Ashwood Wesleyan Church in Lyndonville, in Orleans County from 1997 until 2009, when he was removed over an undisclosed matter.
Michael Notto, the State Police investigator who arrested Rev. Harriger, said state police have contacted Pennsylvania authorities. A spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police confirmed they are investigating claims that Rev. Harriger molested children in their state in the mid-90s.
FREED ON $250,000 BAIL AND BACK IN CHURCH
Following his arrest last month, Harriger was arraigned in Yates Town Court. Bail was set at $250,000 and he was taken to the Orleans County Jail. He was bailed out the next day, which was Thanksgiving Day, by members of his church.
The following Sunday, Rev. Harriger attended church and video on the church's Facebook page, show him playing guitar during the chorals.
One week after his arrest, accompanied by his lawyer, Larry Koss, his wife, Darlene, and several supporters from church, Rev. Harriger appeared before Yates Town Justice Donald Grabowski who issued an order of protection for the two accusers in his case, his adult grandchildren.
CHURCH DEFENDS HIM
Meantime, from the day of his arrest to the present, the Community Fellowship Church's Facebook has defended their pastor:
"Satan isn't going to win this battle. Jesus Christ will prevail. Amen and Amen!!!", the church posted on the day of the arrest.
Judie Osher Hetrick posted, "I know the man, and what the reasoning is behind his son doing this… This is all because a son can't have what he wants, and the boy is upset.....so he strikes out at his father."
April Fearby posted, "His son George … is a drug addict who not too long ago apologized for lying about this before."
Other sites also hosted postings. Some were posted anonymously.
One posted: I sincerely hope all parties are forced to take lie-detector tests, especially the son.... while they're at it, why not make the daughter from MI come out and testify how she smokes a certain something and doesn't want her husband to know and schemed up this story against her dad with her brother in an effort to keep hubby from finding out the truth? The truth will prevail, it WILL prevail.
Rob Harriger, the father of the alleged victims posted: People are saying my brother George is a drug addict, drunk who is telling lies. And they are saying my sister Lisa does drugs. All of this is lies. Our father, the Reverend Roy D. Harriger molested his own children, all five of us. We never spoke out before because he said he got forgiveness and would never touch anyone again. Well he lied because he molested my children and other family members too. That is why we are telling the truth about him now, to protect our children from further abuse and any future victims…. This is the truth about Roy: He's a sick monster who preys on the weak and children.
Anonymous person posted: I'm actually part of the family. All I am going to say is that most of his victims WERE his family….. Although I have told this man I love him thousands of times. No matter what, what he did to the people who trusted him the most is unspeakable…..
Another anonymous post responded accusing the previous poster to be Rev. Harriger's daughter, Lisa.
"Hummm.....right.....Go smoke something else Lisa, maybe hubby needs to know your habit?"
ANOTHER ALLEGED VICTIM POSTS
Another posted: "I am one of 'the reverends' victims. I wish I had the courage to stand up and tell my story …. I'm finding out in this investigation that I was not the first and I wasn't even in the first 10. … His parishioners rally behind him saying 'not this man, it's not possible.' But I assure you with every ounce of courage I have that every story you will hear in this mess is 100% true."
Jenny Harric posted: "It's all he said, she said. There was a family fight and they told him that they'd make up any type of lie to destroy him. I heard it out of one of the family members own mouth that is accusing him that it isn't true. … YOU only know the charges. They have NO evidence at all. And strange that George Harriger let his two daughters stay the night at the pastors the same day the family fight broke out. He then proceeded to harass Darlene and Roy over the telephone saying he was going to take them down regardless of what it took. Then suddenly all of these accusations come out and he plasters his face across the news? I'm sorry, but no "victim" is going to come out and tell the whole world. Coincidence? I think not."
BACK AND FORTH WITH REV. SON
Bob Harriger posted: "How you people can allow Roy back into your church is beyond belief. He has molested his children and his grandchildren, and nieces and nephews. Don't let him have a chance to hurt others.
Jenny Harric: "Really bob? Because you said he never touched you when this all came out. Now you're a victim? Oh lord help you."
Rob Harriger: "I may have never told anyone because I was humiliated about what people would think of me. But when I find out he molested my children I really don't care what people think about me. I just have to protect my children and any future victims."
Jenny Harric (to Rob) "But you were innocent when George accused you of touching your own kids right? What a joke. I remember you threatening to kill George. Now you're trying to turn on your father just to prove something? Get over yourself. He's 70 years old, what do you have to gain? NOTHING."
Sue Hodgins: "Get your facts right. There are not nine others unless his son George is threatening them….. George is always trying to hurt his dad and mom and its wrong…. I just hope the cops check out George's past."
Teresa Harriger: "It's not lies, and it's not George telling lies. You guys know me and my kids. …. He fooled me for 20 years. Now he's lying to you."
Jenny Harric: "There's actually no evidence at all. Just hearsay."
THE GRANDDAUGHTER WEIGHS IN
In response to Harric, one of the two young adult accusers whose claims form the basis of Rev. Harrigers' charges, his granddaughter, Jenna Harriger, posted on the church's Facebook: "Jenny. I don't know who you are, but in all honesty you have no idea what the hell you're talking about. I'll come clean to the whole world. I'll pass every lie detector test given to me. This man is guilty. I've always been close to my family and will do anything to have everyone back together. But they don't believe anyone of us, which is disgusting. My grandmother has always been my role model and knowing she doesn't believe it kills me. So think to yourself honey... Why would anyone lie about this? He may be a changed man now... but he should pay for all the wrong he has done in the past."
The Community Fellowship Church posted just prior to press time their conclusion on the debate: "We know the facts and are behind Pastor Roy 100%."
In 2009, at age 66, Rev. Roy Harriger thought seriously, he said, about retiring, after he was terminated from the Ashville Wesleyan Church.
But a member of his congregation offered Rev. Harriger his barn to preach in. Several of the men found scrap wood and fashioned a cross which they hung on the wall.
The next Sunday, the entire congregation - except one - bolted from the Wesleyan Church, an estimated 70 members, and followed Rev. Harriger to his new church inside the barn. Later they used a fire hall and later the congregation acquired the church on Johnson Rd. To this day, they remain.
The church's motto, hung over the door, reads, ”We don't care where you've been. We care where you're going.”
But in Rev. Harriger's case, where he is going, or for that matter where he has been, is unknown. A trial will determine all that.
He will be back in court January 15, 2014 at 6 pm in the Town of Yates.