Salvation Army facing lawsuit after girls claim sexual abuse in West Ashley

March 20, 2017, Live 5 News

WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) - The Salvation Army is facing a lawsuit after two girls claim they were sexually abused for years while attending Sunday School at the Salvation Army's West Ashley location on Highway 61.

According to the McLeod Law Group, the Salvation Army hired a known sexual predator. 

The lawsuit names Armando Gonzalez, who according to jail records, was arrested in December 2015 for criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 11 in connection to the assaults.

Lawyers say the Salvation Army did not take any steps to protect the victims entrusted in its care and supervision.

The lawsuit claims the girls were sexually assaulted over five years starting at the age of 4. 

According to lawyers, when one of the victims reported the abuse in October of 2015, Gonzalez confessed to years of sexual abuse at The Salvation Army and was subsequently charged and arrested.

"Jane Doe and Jane Doe 2 were subjected to repeated and continuous sexual abuse over the course of several years starting at the age of four by Armando Gonzalez," lawyers said."Prior to The Salvation Army placing Mr. Gonzalez and his wife, Mabel Shuler, in charge of the care, custody, and control of these innocent children there were publicly available arrest records which demonstrated Armando Gonzalez was a sexual predator."

Lawyers say Gonzalez admitted to the repeated abuse of Jane Doe in addition to other young girls. 

According to court records, Gonzalez told law enforcement that he did not stop the abuse because the child "never said no."

In the lawsuit, lawyers say if Jane Doe had not come forward Gonzalez would have continued the abuse.

In addition, lawyers claim that when Jane Doe's mother reported the incident to employees at the Salvation Army, her pleas went unanswered. 

Lawyers with the McLeod Law Group say Gonzalez, who was hired as a childcare supervisor and entrusted with the care of young girls at The Salvation Army, had a documented criminal history of sexually assaulting and abusing minor children.

"He was prohibited by law from directly supervising children," lawyers said. "As alleged, The Salvation Army, and its local leadership officers Louden, Richmond, and Thornhill, among others, knowingly hired and entrusted a sexual predator to care for children who were in their care, custody and control."

The lawsuit names the following organizations and employees as defendants in the lawsuit: The Salvation Army, The Salvation Army Southern Territory, Thomas Louden, Mabel Shuler, Thomas Richmond, and Christopher Thornhil

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