JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some of the women who say they were abused at a north Jacksonville church went back to the church campus Wednesday with their attorney to share their stories. Attorney Cynthia Crawford told News4JAX she is a former member of the church as well, which is why the women trust her.
She joined them at the former site of the Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ Church off Old Kings Road on Wednesday. The pastor of the church and two other members were arrested and charged with capital sexual battery this month.
The women who shared their stories with News4JAX were at the church at different times and described the changes and abuse they witnessed and experienced -- spanning over 20 years.
“To think that it’s still standing or maybe they just replaced it, like they replaced all these victims year after year,” Crawford said.
The church’s old two-story building is boarded up off Old Kings Road.
“What happened here, it makes me feel like how this place looks. It’s disgusting, it should never happen,” said Elisabeth D’Augerot.
D’Augerot and Jennifer Belanger attended the church and school at different times. They both remember the abuse they witnessed from church leaders, like pastor Paul Dyal, Jerome Teschendorf, and Vernon Williamson – who have all been charged with capital sexual battery.
“In ‘94 or ‘95, Vernon Williamson lived here. It was extremely creepy and inappropriate feelings any time you would be around him and how he behaved,” D’Augerot said.
“On this side is where Paul Dyal and his family lived,” Belanger recalled while walking the property on Wednesday. “I can remember any time you got called up there you knew you were in some sort of trouble.”
Belanger said she has some good memories, but the bad was so bad it overshadowed everything else.
Crawford said she herself didn’t experience abuse while at the church, but when she learned of what other people said they experienced, she couldn’t just sit by.
“They trust me because I went to this church. I left when I was young. It didn’t happen to me, but it did happen to them,” Crawford said. “The memories I had that were positive are now just as dilapidated and torn down as the church is behind me.”
Crawford said although she left when she was young, her ties with the church were deep.
“Paul Dyal knows me. I stayed in his house when I was 8 years old. His family knows me, I went to school with his sons. Vernon Williamson knows me,” Crawford said.
Crawford said she has stories from more than 15 people alleging abuse not just at Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ Church -- but within the Gospel Assembly.
“This is a network of churches,” Crawford explained. “I have had people call and talk about very similar actions, very similar ways of life, very similar styles of abuse, sexual abuse physical abuse, in Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, California, Oregon. All over.”
The women each described a different experience, but they are working toward one goal.
“When I was a kid, this place needed to be shut down,” D’Augerot said. “Coming here now finally seeing and knowing that something’s being done finally gives me so much joy.”
Crawford said for the women she’s spoken with, the statute of limitations has long passed for civil suits, so right now, they are focusing on finding more people to come forward for the criminal case.
Crawford says their stories can help with the criminal prosecution of Dyal, Teschendorf and Williamson.
Dyal and Williamson are in the Duval County Jail.
News4JAX contacted the jail in Oklahoma where Teschendorf was arrested, and officials there said he is no longer in their system. He isn’t yet in Duval’s system either, so it’s unclear when he’ll arrive in Jacksonville.