WINKLER COUNTY, TX (KWES) - A lawsuit seeking $50 million in damages for "severe psychological pain and mental anguish" was filed Wednesday in Winkler County against an Amarillo church, claiming members kept quiet about molestation involving a former volunteer pastor.
Kermit resident Randy Steven Castillo, 28, was arrested in January 2015, Amarillo Police said, after an adult discovered inappropriate text messages he sent to a minor.
He reportedly met the unidentified girl while volunteering at Trinity Fellowship Church on Hollywood Road in Amarillo, authorities said.
"We sued Trinity Church because we have learned the church had information about 'Pastor Randy' asking junior high-aged girls for nude pictures," said Kevin Glasheen, the anonymous plaintiff's Lubbock-based attorney. "You could see that in their internal emails."
Church members who were made aware of the inappropriate correspondence never alerted law enforcement or parents of the children, according to the lawsuit.
Failing to report child abuse is a crime in Texas. However, Castillo's colleagues and supervisors at Trinity Fellowship Church were not arrested or charged.
A Randall County grand jury indicted Castillo in March 2015 on two counts of sexual assault of a child and two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, court records revealed.
Castillo was released on $50,000 bond. He could not be reached for comment.
Bree Proffitt, a spokesperson for Trinity Fellowship Church, emailed the following statement to NewsWest 9:
"More than a year ago, members of Trinity Fellowship's pastoral staff learned of the arrest of a former church volunteer. Randy Castillo was arrested in January 2015 on accusations of aggravated sexual assault of a teenager. Castillo served as an occasional volunteer in the Children's Ministry at Trinity Fellowship's Hollywood Road campus from October 2012 until July 2014. At no time was Castillo employed by Trinity Fellowship, given the title of Pastor, or referred to as such. He occasionally served on the volunteer team working with four-year-olds in our early childhood ministry and served at the 2014 summer camp for 1st-4th graders.
Prior to becoming a volunteer, Castillo underwent the required screening process to ensure he was not a registered sex offender. In the fall of 2013, he attended a series of classes to further his volunteer training, completing the final class on November 24, 2013. Trinity Fellowship personnel conducted a thorough background check on Castillo on December 3rd, 2013, which revealed no criminal offenses. Again in May 2014 he passed another background check prior to serving at Trinity's summer camp for 1st-4th graders.
In August of 2014, a member of Trinity's pastoral staff confronted Castillo with concerns regarding a suggestion of improper contact with a teenage girl over the social media app SnapChat. Castillo denied that allegation; however, he was removed from volunteer service as a precautionary measure. Because there were no records to substantiate the allegations, the church took no further action.
After Castillo's arrest, the church's pastoral staff cooperated fully with the Amarillo Police Department in their investigation, and to date there is no evidence that Castillo met the teenager at Trinity Fellowship or that the allegations involve activities that took place on church property or during church-sponsored events.
In a letter to affected Children's Ministry parents on January 23, 2015, Senior Pastor Jimmy Witcher stated that Castillo's interaction with children at Trinity Fellowship was "always in a public setting with other adults present." He encouraged congregants that "the security and protection of our church family is our utmost priority." Trinity Fellowship has taken great care to put ministry policies and procedures in place that underscore our deep commitment to the safety of everyone who participates in church activities, both on and off our campuses. We welcome church and community members to share with us any questions or concerns they may have."