Hartland pastor accused of molesting two young children in 2000-01 - The Buffalo News
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Hartland pastor accused of molesting two young children in 2000-01

LOCKPORT – The Rev. Roy D. Harriger Sr. may have left a trail of as many as 10 victims of sexual abuse across three states and four decades, a State Police investigator said Wednesday as he announced the minister’s arrest on charges of molesting two children.

Harriger, 70, was picked up at his home on Johnson Creek Road in the hamlet of Johnson Creek, adjacent to his church, which is located within the Town of Hartland in eastern Niagara County. Lt. Kurt Schmitt said Harriger is married with three sons and two daughters. He is the pastor of Community Fellowship Church in Johnson Creek, but the sex crimes allegedly occurred from September 2000 through September 2001, when he was pastor of Ashwood Wesleyan Church in Lyndonville, Orleans County.

Harriger lived in Michigan and Pennsylvania before coming to this area, Schmitt said, and authorities in those states are investigating.

Harriger was arrested at his home Wednesday morning and charged with two counts of incest, two counts of first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child and four counts of first-degree sodomy.

Schmitt said each count refers to a separate incident. The sentencing range for each sexual conduct and sodomy count is 10 to 25 years, while the incest charges carry a prison term of up to seven years.

Harriger, who had no prior criminal record, was arraigned without an attorney Wednesday in Yates Town Court and sent to Orleans County Jail after not posting $250,000 bail, Schmitt said. He is due for a preliminary appearance at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Yates.

Schmitt said the alleged victims, one male and one female, were between 7 and 9 years old at the time of the incidents with which he is charged. They are now adults.

Schmitt said the number of alleged victims of sexual abuse by Harriger in the three states is “approaching 10.” A State Police source said the oldest incidents allegedly occurred in 1974.

Although Schmitt said that many of the oldest potential charges had to be set aside because of the statute of limitations, New York law does not start the clock on course of sexual conduct charges until the alleged victim turns 18.

Schmitt said the alleged molestations were reported to police about two months ago. He said Harriger had not been interviewed by police prior to his arrest by State Police Investigator Michael Noto of the Criminal Bureau of Investigation, who had a search warrant.

Harriger left Ashwood Wesleyan Church in 2009 after a dispute with a church district official, and an estimated 60 members of the congregation followed him to his new church in Middleport, according to Jeff Johnson, a church member who attended the arraignment.

“We feel he is totally innocent. It is a trumped-up charge from a dysfunctional family,” Johnson said Wednesday. “I was at his arraignment with a member from the music ministry, and I believe all the congregation will be behind the reverend.”

The Rev. Karen Tucker, current pastor at Ashwood Wesleyan, confirmed that Harriger moved on several years ago.

“I met the man for the first time about two years ago at a prayer service,” Tucker said. “He has not been affiliated with this church for several years.”

Johnson said his pastor has been placed in “a tough situation.” He added, “Unfortunately, allegations like this hurt everyone.”

Schmitt said it’s probable that other alleged victims of Harriger still may not have come forward. “Often in these cases,” he said, “other victims will hear this story and see that we’ve arrested a subject and at that point are willing to come forward.” That’s what happened in this case, Schmitt said. One alleged victim came forward and others got wind of it, “and they realize they’re not alone and they’re more willing to tell their story.”

He said that anyone with information about Harriger, including other potential victims, should call the State Police in Albion at (585) 589-4244.

“We have several who have given us statements regarding Mr. Harriger. Unfortunately, we only have two in New York State that we’re able to prosecute, based on the laws,” Schmitt said.

“I believe he lived in Michigan a long time ago, way back, and then he lived in Pennsylvania briefly. I honestly don’t know when he came here.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com and lmichel@buffnews.com

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