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Pastors at First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California, told local authorities ten years ago that they suspected prominent church elder James Truxton, then 76, of molesting a child. A young woman said in a premarital counseling session that Truxton had molested her as a child. Other women came forward later with similar allegations.

Truxton, a member of the church since 1958, eventually confessed to committing the sexual acts. He wrote letters of regret to victims and church members, and set up a $30,000 trust fund to help pay the counseling costs of victims. The church, led at the time by Charles Swindoll, removed Truxton as an elder and revoked his membership.

That year Swindoll preached a strong sermon against church-related sexual abuse, "In Defense of the Helpless," which aired on his radio program, Insight for Living. But because the cases dated back more than six years, the state's statute of limitations applied, and the window for authorities to prosecute had closed.

Last summer, however, Insight for Living rebroadcast Swindoll's sermon. A woman listener called Fullerton police to find out what had happened to Truxton. After hearing he had never faced criminal charges, the woman, 29, told police that Truxton had molested her at his home from 1978 (when she was 7) to 1981.

In the interim, California law had changed. The statute of limitations no longer applied to new claims, and the police reopened the case, with the full cooperation of the Fullerton church.

Authorities filed charges in March that Truxton, now 86, had performed oral sex on a child. Now living in San Diego, Truxton faces a possible eight-year prison term if convicted. He was released from the Orange County jail after posting a $25,000 bond.

Prosecutor ...

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In the Magazine

May 21, 2002

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