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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Phoenix Jehovah's Witness Elder (And Former Acquaintance) Arrested On Molestation Charges

I learned of this a few days ago, but I've had a difficult time trying to work out how I was going to write about it.

Child molestation within the Jehovah's Witness organization is nothing new.  A group of dedicated former Witnesses have been tracking hundreds of JW pedophiles in the news since 2001.  At, they have not only kept track of crimes against children within the church, but have also received thousands of letters from individuals telling of their stories of sexual abuse from elders and other members of the congregation.  

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen in on a conference call with someone who works at the headquarters for Jehovah's Witnesses, also known as Bethel by those in the organization.  There is a department there that does nothing but handle incoming correspondence from elders in the congregation, and from victims, regarding molestation and abuse claims from within the congregation.  Some of it is forwarded to their legal department.  Some of it is simply thrown away;  shredded and destroyed.  He told us that based upon a number that he was told (this is second hand information), there may be as many as 23,000 abuse claims on file at the Witnesses New York headquarters.

So, when I read a story of a JW elder accused of molesting a member of his congregation, it comes as no surprise to me.  When I read the following story, however, I was a bit stunned.  This time was different from the rest.  This time, I knew the guy in the picture.  He was MY elder.

On November 3, 2010, David (or Dave, as I knew him) Nelson, 63, was arrested by Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies and charged with 2 counts of sexual conduct with a minor, 2 counts of sexual molestation, and two counts of public sexual indecency.  The charges stem from when he molested a 14 year old boy, who was also a Jehovah's Witness, back in 1980.

I'll be honest with you.  The article I read regarding his arrest was quite graphic regarding the sexual acts involved in the molestation.  If you would like to read it, you can catch it here.  To summarize what happened, he started playing strip poker with the boy, and, as time went on, the games got more and more "adventurous".  Before it was all said and done, Nelson ended up performing oral sex on a 14 year old boy twice.

From what I have read, the victim has struggled with the encounters for the last 30 years.  According to news reports, he had only recently told his wife of the abuse and was looking for a way to get Nelson to admit to the molestation.  He secretly recorded a phone conversation between himself and Nelson and brought up the incidents.  Nelson admitted to them and apologized for them.  The victim then took the tape to the police.

The media is saying that he was a "former Jehovah's Witness minister".  Don't be fooled, people.  It is believed that "Brother" Nelson only stepped down as an elder and left the church a mere week before his arrest.  He knew his arrest was coming, and he is trying not to make the Jehovah's Witness organization look bad.

I knew this man.  I knew his family.  I left the church in August of '96.  Before leaving, I decided to give things one last chance.  I wanted to go to a new congregation on the other side of town.  One where I didn't have the influence of my mother or any of my lifelong family friends.  I wanted to make sure I was doing it for me and not everyone else.  I started going to the Squaw Peak congregation.  They met at a smaller Kingdom Hall on 16th Street, just South of Glendale Avenue.  Dave Nelson was what we called the "Presiding Overseer", that is the term given to basically the number one elder in the congregation.  I didn't have a car at the time.  Him and his family took me in.  He picked me up for every meeting.  I had dinner at his family's house regularly.  I've even stayed overnight at his place a number of times.

He seemed like a wonderful man.  For a time, he was even a bit of a father figure for me.  It's hard to believe how someone like that could do something so.......wrong.  I was 20 at the time that I knew him, almost 21.  At that time, there were a number of guys in the congregation that looked to him as a mentor, that were 15 or 16 years old, that were either in a single parent house, or there dad wasn't a Witness.  Looking back, I wonder if he got to them.  It's a thought that makes me nauseous.

August of '96 came, and I realized that I had wasted too many years pretending to be someone I wasn't.  I stopped going to the Kingdom Hall.  A short time later, it was sold.  It's now a Buddhist temple.  I'm not sure what happened to the Squaw Peak congregation.  I think it was split up and reassigned.  Dave Nelson and his family moved to the Madison Park congregation.  Evidently, according to the news article, that's the congregation they were still in at the time he got arrested.

Phoenix Police are asking anyone that has information about any other victims to call.  I will keep everyone posted with any additional information.


Joe Emerson said...

Hi, I'll go now and give the link to this to Bill Bowen who has a website exposing the pedophiles atthat Watchtower tries to hide: You and other readers can also communicate with him via