NBC NEWS in Yakima, Washington reported that “A man who pleaded guilty to raping two underage girls he met at the Jehovah’s Witness congregation they all belonged to has been sentenced to five years in prison. Elihu Rodriguez, 32, of Yakima, Washington, was given five years, the maximum sentence prosecutors had recommended after Rodriguez agreed to plead guilty to three felony counts of child rape in the third degree in September 2019.”
Rodriguez was also ordered to register as a sex offender. Both of his victims attended the sentencing, which took place in the King County Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, Washington. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender. Both of his victims attended the sentencing, which took place Friday at the King County Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, Washington.
One of Rodriguez’s victims chose to share her story last year. She said she had been five days away from turning 15 when Rodriguez, then 25, first raped her in October 2012 at her home in Federal Way, Washington.
By Elizabeth Chuck
She was 14, and at first, the attention felt innocent — like any other friendly interaction Moriah Smith had with fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses during worship meetings.
Smith didn’t think anything of the casual conversations she was having with Elihu Rodriguez, a 25-year-old man in her Seattle-area congregation. When he started giving her gifts, like-new clothing and a cell phone, Smith — who was taught through her religion that sex is only between a husband and wife — did not think she was being groomed for sexual abuse.
Smith says it was in October 2012, five days before her 15th birthday, that Rodriguez had sex with her in the bedroom of the house she lived in with her father, a respected Jehovah’s Witness elder. More sexual abuse followed for the next three months, she said. Ridden by panic attacks but ashamed and confused by what was happening, Smith didn’t tell anyone, including her family, what was going on.
“I didn’t understand anything really about sex,” Smith, now 20, said. “I also had the fear of disappointing God. Not only that, but I could potentially be shunned.”
The following year, Smith moved to Fairfield, Washington. Although she still did not feel comfortable disclosing to her parents — who she says did ultimately cut off contact with her when they found out years later what she endured in her prior congregation — she worked up the courage to report it to three elders at the Fairfield Kingdom Hall.
Published December 30, 2019 / Barbara Anderson