HOUSTON – An ordained deacon has been arrested in connection with at least two sexual assault incidents at a west Houston church, police said
Barry Todd Durrell, 55, was arrested after reports of repeated sexual assault incidents involving two boys under the age of 10 at the West Houston Seventh Day Adventist Church, police said.
According to police, Durrell raped a 2-year-old boy in a closet in May 2016 at the church on West Sam Houston Parkway. They said the mother of the child found Durrell and the child in the closet.
Police said Durrell was arrested in March after investigating the mother's and child's allegations.
They said that during that investigation in February, a 7-year-old boy came forward and told family members about ongoing incidents with the deacon, where Burrell sexually assaulted him multiple times.
According to police, the child was attending a class at the church, and Burrell took him to the restroom and assaulted him on multiple occasions.
The 7-year-old said the incidents happened at two other locations including Memorial City Mall and a motel. Durrell would go shopping with the family and offered to take the boy to the restroom, according to police.
Police said Durrell had a motive for being involved with the families.
"His main point of everything he did was to gain the trust of the people of that community, to gain the trust of the people that worked at the church before anything happened," Officer Lee Donovan said. "This is a longstanding thing of grooming that he had been doing with these children, and not with just the children, but with the parents of the community, gaining their trust and everything else before anything happened actually happened to the children."
Investigators said Durrell was convicted of a similar crime in California in 1988. They said he also admitted to another charge in Oregon. Both involved young children. Durrell moved to Houston in 1990 and has been a deacon of the church since 2003.
"He was not honest with the church. Dishonest people are like that,” said Annie, a member of the church.
She said she and her husband invited Durrell to live in their home at the church’s request. They said they do not fault the church and that Durrell was dishonest.
"With a good heart, we said okay. And we took him in. But we did not know anything. Zero," Annie said. "In the mornings, he would get up, he packs his backpack and he goes for the day. And that's all. We never questioned him or anything. Nothing. Because we thought he was a Christian just like us."
Durrell was not a registered sex offender and police said they are not sure why.
"We are here today because we believe there are more.The church has actually stepped up beyond belief and helped us with our investigation as well as reached out to members of the community to see if they can help out with services but also to ID more victims," Donovan said.
Investigators believe there may be more victims, not only through the church, but at apartment complexes and parks in west Houston.
"Knowing that he's been in our community for 30 years and is just now coming out and we have allegations from the '80s that the entire time he lived at apartment complexes with the same trust that he got the members of the church, he could've got from members of his apartment complex," Donovan said.
Durrell is charged with super aggravated sexual assault and continuous sexual abuse of a child. He is being held on $100,000 bond.
The church issued the following statement:
"The West Houston Seventh Day Adventist Church has been made aware of the recent charges against and subsequent arrest of one of its members. The West Houston Church strongly condemns the alleged offenses and is cooperating fully with law enforcement and its investigation.
"The West Houston Church is a 700 multicultural Seventh day Adventist congregation and the well-being of its members and community is of utmost importance."
Police ask that anyone with information or who may have had contact with Durrell to contact HPD Special Victims Division at 713-830-3254 or Crime Stoppers.