SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Pastors and police officers facing claims that they enabled the decades-long sexual abuse of children in an evangelical Christian home have pointed to the statute of limitations to dodge liability.
The seven biological and foster children of Zion and Glenda Lea Dutro, all of whom are now adult women, filed their complaint anonymously in late 2011. Zion Dutro was sentenced to 300 years in prison after admitting that he sexually abused his children between 1982 and 2003. His wife was sentenced to 15 years for her role in the psychological, physical and verbal abuse.
An amended complaint that the sisters filed in May revealed their names and a host of individuals or entities who allegedly knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop it.
Contra Costa County, the city of Antioch and the Calvary Open Bible Church are named as defendants, along with several police officers, church pastors and social workers.
Most of the defendants cited the statute of limitations, which requires abuse actions be filed by a victim’s 26th birthday, in motions to dismiss filed last week.
They also say that the clock on federal civil rights claim starts to run when a victim knows or has reason to know of the injury.
“According to the allegations of the first amended complaint, plaintiffs were aware that Antioch officers investigated reports of abuse by their father back in 1995; they were aware that Zion Dutro was not immediately arrested; and they were aware that a CPS worker did not interview them for approximately two weeks after Glenda Stripes reported the abuse,” according to the motion filed by Antioch, Officer Art Acosta, Officer William Dee and Detective Dimitri Barakos.
Glenda Stripes is one of the Dutros’ biological daughters. She filed suit alongside her biological sisters, Sara Dutro, Martha McKnelly and Amber Dutro, and their foster sisters, Frances Smith and Christina Moore.
“Therefore, even using the general two year statute of limitations, plaintiffs had sufficient information as early as 1995 that city police officers investigated reports of abuse and that plaintiffs had continued contact with Dutro notwithstanding the police involvement,” the motion continues. “Plaintiffs’ claims against the Antioch defendants, therefore, accrued in 1995.”
This group also claims the Dutros’ children failed to state “any facts at all showing what due process or other constitutional right was violated by the officers’ handling of the investigation, or that plaintiffs have any constitutional right to police protection from third party criminal conduct.”
“Despite its length, the first amended complaint is devoid of any facts showing a violation of any civil right secured by the constitution or federal laws, and therefore fails to state a claim … against any of the Antioch defendants,” the motion states.
Antioch and its officers took aim at allegations that they conspired to perpetuate the abuse.
“Plaintiffs’ first amended complaint merely concludes that Acosta, Barakos, Dee and Wood ‘conspired for the purpose of depriving plaintiffs of equal protection of the laws, or equal privileges and immunities under the law,'” according to the motion. “These unsupported allegations of conspiracy, without any factual specificity, are patently insufficient to state a cause of action for conspiracy.”
Former pastors of the Calvary Open Bible Church, Mark Wood and Anthony Lee, also say that statute of limitations clock ran out long ago.
Wood’s motion also says the sisters cannot seek punitive damages because their complaint does not ascribe malice, fraud or oppression to his alleged breach of duty.
The complaint describes one occasion in which Sara Dutro told Lee about the abuse to thwart her mother’s 2002 bid for a youth adviser position with the church.
Lee – who allegedly told Sara Dutro that that the “sins of her father do not reflect on sins of her mother” – now claims that the law did not recognize pastors as mandated reporters at the time of this alleged conversation.
“There is no indication Lee received Sara Dutro’s report when he was ‘in his professional capacity or within the scope of his employment,'” Lee’s motion states.
The court will hold a hearing on all three motions Aug. 1.
The Calvary Open Bible Church, Contra Costa County and two employees with county Child Protective Services, Jack Rogers and Tom Potts, have not filed dismissal motions.