After chilling testimony, former Ogontz Avenue deacon held for trial on child-rape charges

(Warning: This story includes graphic details of alleged sexual crimes.)

Three young women took to a Criminal Justice Center witness stand on Thursday to divulge the details of a darkened childhood.

Courtney Wilson, the 56-year-old former church deacon at the Remnant Church of God 7th Day on Ogontz Avenue, has been charged with two counts of rape, aggravated assault, terroristic threats, two counts of statutory sexual assault and a series of other charges.

In December, five women reported Wilson to the police, alleging sexual abuse that occurred repeatedly between 1997 and 2005 when they were minors. The women, now in their 20s, were affiliated with the church, located at 7708 Ogontz Ave., during the alleged abuse.

His preliminary hearing on those charges was held Thursday.

One victim’s testimony

The first victim to testify (identities are being concealed for privacy) said that she met Wilson at the age of 8. She alleged the first rape occurred two years later at a time when she was living in the same home as Wilson and other family members.

The victim alleged that Wilson got into her bed while she was sleeping, began rubbing her back, caressing her buttocks, placed his fingers inside her vagina and then climbed on top of her and vaginally raped her.

“I was scared,” she said on the witness stand. “I just laid there.”

On a separate occasion, the first victim alleged, Wilson held a knife to her neck and threatened to kill her if she told anyone in his family about the sexual abuse.

The alleged rapes continued several times a week over three years, she said. Wilson also allegedly slapped her whenever he feared she might report him.

She eventually left the house where Wilson lived and began living with various church members, constantly switching from one home to another until she left for boarding school.

When she was 13, she was brought back to live in Wilson’s home. She testified that the attacks resumed once or twice per week until she left to move in with her mother two years later. She informed her mother, teacher and the church’s bishop, Hewitt Coward.

Although the first victim went from home to home, the family still brought her to the Wilson’s home for the holidays.

“I felt like nothing was being done,” she said.

Shortly after she was 15, she went to the hospital for itching and burning she was experiencing in her genitals. Doctors determined she had chlamydia, she testified.

Two more victims’ allegations

The second victim to testify said she was 11-years-old when she went to a housewarming party after church. Wilson, his daughter and other youths were present. When the girl became annoyed by two of the teens who were kissing while they watched a movie, Wilson allegedly asked if she preferred to watch a movie in his room.

In his bedroom, he turned on the film “Bless the Child,” which quickly caused the second victim to fall asleep. When she awoke, she allegedly saw Wilson’s hand slowly coming out from under her panties.

“I don’t know if he realized I had woken up,” she said of an incident which was the only time Wilson allegedly touched her.

A third victim’s mother was friends with Wilson through the church. He often made repairs in her home. When she was 14, Wilson allegedly came to her house when nobody else was home.

While she gave him a tour of the house and showed him her bedroom, he allegedly tried to kiss her before groping her breasts on her bed, kissing her neck and proceeding to rape her. He stopped because she was crying, she said.

“I was telling him, ‘It hurts,'” she testified, adding that she then locked herself in the bathroom. When she checked herself with a mirror, she was bleeding from her genitals. She said the rapes continued “often” until she was 18.

“If this is proven,” said Municipal Court Judge Dawn Segal, “I think it is despicable what Mr. Wilson did.”

Bail reduction denied

After the testimony, Segal dropped two counts of aggravated indecent assault, incest, sexual assault and two counts of endangering the welfare of children. 

Wilson’s defense attorney Cheryl Kreisher called the $7.5 million bail on Wilson “excessive” because her client has no prior record, but a request to reduce it was denied.

Assistant District Attorney Helen Fitzpatrick had previously asked for bail to be outright revoked, arguing Wilson has citizenship in Jamaica.

Wilson, of Brighton Street in Burholme, was held for trial. His arraignment is set for Feb. 16.

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