Calgary pastor Thomas Larry Jones acquitted of sexual assault charges

A former Calgary church pastor now living in Carstairs has been charged in connection with two sexual assaults that date back to the 1970s. Another former leader at the same church had earlier been convicted of sexually abusing children.

Jones found not guilty of assaulting 2 girls; Russell Rodman convicted of sexually assaulting 3 boys

Update Sept. 19, 2016: Thomas Larry Jones has been acquitted of the charges against him. He was found not guilty on Sept. 14 following a three-day trial.

Original story below.

A former Calgary church pastor now living in Carstairs has been charged in connection with two sexual assaults that date back to the 1970s.

It's alleged some of the assaults took place at Western Baptist Church in northwest Calgary, which was the site of another investigation against a former deacon there.

The first victim alleges the abuse started in 1979 when she was five years old and continued for 10 years.

There's no indication to us that these two people were working together.- Child abuse unit Det. Jeff Klinger

The other victim says she was nine years old when she was first assaulted in 1986 and that the abuse continued until she was 18.

Both girls were parishioners at the Baptist church in northwest Calgary where the accused was a religious leader and teacher.

The assaults allegedly occurred in the church and at the home of the accused.

Thomas Larry Jones, 69, faces numerous charges including gross indecency, indecent assault and sexual assault, interference and exploitation.

The allegations came to the attention of police following a similar case in 2012 when Russell Rodman, another leader at the same church, was charged with sexually assaulting three boys in the 1980s and '90s.

Pastor Thomas Larry Jones, now 69, faced several charges stemming from alleged assaults on two girls which lasted over a period of years. He was found not guilty on Sept. 14, 2016, following a three-day trial. (Provincial Archives of Alberta)

He was sentenced to 38 months in prison last April.

"There's no indication to us that these two people were working together," said child abuse unit Det. Jeff Klinger.

'It's a very unique situation'

"It's a very unique situation. It would be very uncommon for us to come across two people in the same organization that would be, to the best of our knowledge unknowing to each other,... abuse going on against different preferred victims — one being male, the other being female."

The Western Baptist Church in northwest Calgary has now been at the centre of two sexual assault investigations. (Elizabeth Snaddon/CBC)

Klinger said the two alleged victims who came forward with allegations against Jones were happy to learn he has now been arrested and charged.

One of the victims had come forward in 1993 but an investigation by the child abuse unit at that time failed to turn up enough evidence to lay charges, Klinger said.

However, Klinger said the allegations against Jones seem to have caused the congregation to disband sometime in the early 1990s.

"The church had come to a point where it kind of collapsed and he left the church at that time," he said.

The church has since reconvened. Current pastor Michael Martin says he is shocked by the charges against Jones. He speaks very highly of "Pastor Jones," who goes by the name Larry, and believes the allegations are false. 

In the 1980s, Jones waged a legal battle that went to the Supreme Court of Canada for the right to educate his children in the basement of his church.

The top court ruled in 1986 that his Charter right to freedom of religion was not violated by Alberta's Schools Act, which required him to either send the children to school or apply for permission to home-school them with an approved curriculum. 

But the court ruled the province must "'delicately and sensitively weigh the competing interests so as to respect as much as possible the religious convictions as guaranteed by the Charter."