michael jensen mugshot
A Latter Day Saints church in West Virginia is being sued for allegedly protecting an accused child abuser and allowing him to maintain positions of trust over minors. Michael Jensen is accused of inappropriate conduct toward 12 plaintiffs. Martinsburg Sheriff's Department

A Latter Day Saints church in West Virginia was sued after 12 plaintiffs alleged church officials knowingly allowed an individual with a history of sexual abuse near children, Fox-affiliate KSTU reported Monday.

Multiple John Doe and Jane Doe complaints filed a lawsuit with the Circuit Court of Berkeley County. The 12 plaintiffs sought damages caused to them because of sexual abuse they experienced as minors at the hands of Michael Jensen, 25. The The lawsuit alleged Jensen’s parents, who were leaders in the church, and other members aware of his abusive actions continued placing him in positions of trust. Complaints dated back to 2007. In 2013, he was accused and charged with first-degree sexual assault after allegedly abusing minors while in a position of church leadership. Jensen was sentenced to 35-75 years in prison.

The lawsuit detailed several occasions in which Jensen was in a position of power and reportedly sexually abused children. One victim said Jensen locked her in a room and forced her to touch him inappropriately when she was four-years-old. Another victim said when he was two-years-old, he obtained “abrasions or burns” on his thighs and genitals after Jensen babysat him. The church allegedly tried to intimidate the families of the victims, but ultimately excommunicated Jensen.

The complaint stated that the Stake High Council held a meeting in 2007 to discuss Jensen’s sexual abuse of his younger sibling and another minor. That same year, the mother of a victim, who was four-years-old when she was abused, reported her concerns to Jensen’s parents that their son harmed her daughter while he babysat her. Jensen’s mother was the church’s local Relief Society President, and Jensen’s father was a Stake High Council member.

The complaint called church leaders “negligent” for continuing to allow Jensen to babysit and live with members who had underage children. Complainants requested punitive damages and compensatory damages, saying “the Church’s self-interest cannot be elevated over the needs of young children.”

The complaint also emphasized compliance with secular laws required sex abuse be reported to the authorities. Jensen was sentenced to serve his time in the West Virginia penitentiary, followed by 50 years probation.