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July 07, 2023

Five men charged with sexually abusing children within Jehovah's Witnesses congregations in Pennsylvania

The charges, filed against men from Philadelphia, Delco and elsewhere in the state, are part of an ongoing investigation into child sexual abuse within the religious community

Investigations Sex Abuse
Jehovah's Witness child sexual abuse Provided image/Commonwealth Media Services

Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry announces charges against five men accused of sexually abusing children within their Jehovah's Witness congregations. They men charged include David Balosa, of Philadelphia, and Errol William Hall, of Delaware County.

Five men, including residents of Philadelphia and Delaware County, are accused of using "positions of trust" within their Jehovah's Witnesses congregations in Pennsylvania to sexually assault children.

David Balosa, 62, of Philadelphia, and Errol William Hall, 50, of Delco, are among the men facing criminal charges, Attorney General Michelle Henry said Friday.

Hall, an elder in his Upper Darby Jehovah's Witness congregation, allegedly abused a 16-year-old girl who "viewed him as like an uncle" on six occasions. Several of the alleged assaults occurred after Hall drove her to the SEPTA train station at 52nd and Market streets in Philly; she was attending the Philadelphia High School for Girls at the time. 

Balosa is accused of assaulting a 4-year-old girl while staying with her family when he was 35. Balosa and the victim belonged to the Olney Spanish Jehovah's Witness congregation in Philly. A recent immigrant from Angola, Balosa was living in the family's basement at the time of the assault and allegedly urged his victim not to tell anyone, prosecutors said. She did not report the incident to her parents until she was 15.

Charges also were brought against Shaun Sheffer of Butler County, Luis Manuel Ayala-Velasquez of Berks County and Terry Booth of Panama City, who resided in Allegheny County at the time of his alleged crimes. All five men have been charged with indecent assault and corruption of minors, but some face additional charges of rape and endangering the welfare of children.

Balosa remains at large, Henry said at a press conference. The other four men have been arrested. 

Sheffer and Ayala-Velasquez, of Reading, are accused of abusing family members. Booth allegedly assaulted a 16-year-old boy he was "mentor(ing)."

"The details of these crimes are sad and disturbing, facts which are made even more abhorrent because the defendants used their faith communities or their own families to gain access to victims," Henry said in a statement. "Our office will never stop working to seek justice for those who have been victimized, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute anyone who harms the most vulnerable in our society."

The charges are the latest to arise from an ongoing investigation into child sexual abuse. The attorney general's office has announced charges against 14 men in Jehovah's Witness congregations since last October.

Henry urged anyone with information regarding child sexual abuse to make a report to ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313, and anyone with additional information regarding these specific cases to make a report to the Office of Attorney General's hotline at (888) 538-8541. 

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