David James Gomez

WEST VALLEY CITY — A former LDS bishop and administrator with the Utah Department of Corrections was accused Tuesday of molesting several teenage boys over an extended period of time.

David James Gomez, 57, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Monday for investigation of 50 counts of forcible sodomy, 15 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, 10 counts of sodomy on a child, all first-degree felonies, and 50 counts of forcible sexual abuse, all second-degree felonies. He was being held Tuesday without bail.

Salt Lake County District Attorney's spokesman Kent Morgan said he expected criminal charges to be filed late Tuesday afternoon. The Deseret Morning News could not confirm that any charges had been filed.

Gomez is accused of raping, sodomizing and fondling several boys 10 to 13 years ago, according to police. He came in contact with the boys while serving as bishop of the Hunter 10th Ward.

Gomez is director of Utah Correctional Industries for the Department of Corrections. He was placed on administrative leave following his arrest Monday.

Police confirmed Tuesday there were multiple victims but declined to say exactly how many they had identified. West Valley police Sgt. Craig Black said the investigation for additional victims was continuing.

Black said investigators also contacted at least one potential witness in addition to the victims.

He said one of the victim's parents contacted police during the first week of April. What prompted them to come forward so many years after the alleged abuse was unknown Tuesday, Black said.

"We believe church leaders knew about some of these allegations six or seven months ago," Black said.

Black said church leaders never reported the allegations to detectives. Investigators learned about the accusations only through one of the victims, he said.

However, after consulting with the district attorney's office, Black said investigators are satisfied that Utah's mandatory reporting laws were not violated.

A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Tuesday he could not comment on whether the allegations of abuse were known earlier than what was reported to police.

"The church was shocked to learn recently of these allegations, particularly considering the relationship of trust that must exist between a bishop and the members of his congregation. We express our deepest sympathy to the victim and his family. The church has cooperated fully with law enforcement officers in their investigation of this matter," LDS Church spokesman Dale Bills said.

The victim who stepped forward, now an adult, said the abuse began before he was 14 years old and continued for about three and a half years, according to a probable-cause statement filed at the time of Gomez's arrest. During that time the victim said he was abused at least twice a week, and the number of sexual abuse incidents was more than 500 during that time, according to the statement.

While that victim was interviewed, police were led to other possible victims, Black said. Each of their stories corroborated with the others', he said. Each victim also said they were abused for several months, Black said.

All of the victims apparently knew each other, Black said.

The original victim who stepped forward picked Gomez out of a photo lineup, according to a jail report.

Many neighbors in Gomez's neighborhood couldn't believe the news of their former bishop when they heard it.

"I am totally shocked," said Kaye Kent. "I still don't believe it."

Neighbors described Gomez as a man who would go out of his way to help others in the neighborhood. Gomez was involved with the ward Scouting program, according to neighbors.

"He's a wonderful man," said Kent, who has two sons. "He's really good to the kids. The kids love him."

Gomez was hired by the Department of Corrections in 2000 in human resource management. He was named deputy director of UCI in 2002 and promoted to director in 2003.


Contributing: Jennifer Dobner, Laura Hancock

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com