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Judge sentences ex-Fairfield pastor to prison for child sexual abuse

ruark sentencing, 3/11/13

Robert Ruark bows to the spectators in the courtroom after reading a statement during his sentencing hearing in Solano County Superior Court, Monday in Fairfield. At right is his attorney Amanda Bevins. Ruark, the former pastor of St. Timothy Orthodox Church in Fairfield, had pleaded guilty to 18 charges of felony child sexual assault. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | March 12, 2013 |

FAIRFIELD — There was repeated talk of forgiveness Monday at the sentencing for a reverend who preyed on and sexually abused the children of his church.

Forgiveness, though, was shrouded by the unanswered question of whether the reverend’s faith was just a longtime guise to sate his diseased passions.

Shackled and hobbling, Robert E. Ruark, the 66-year-old former pastor of St. Timothy Orthodox Church in Fairfield, walked into a courtroom Monday afternoon, a courtroom crowded with his former parishioners and fellow clergymen on hand to watch his sentencing for 19 felony child sexual assault offenses.

Ruark, who was known as Father Silas while he was a pastor, was arrested in July 2012 after Fairfield police were told by church leaders that they had just learned that Ruark had repeatedly molested several children for many years either at the Central Way church or during sleepovers at his Suisun City home.

Ruark’s successor at the church, the Rev. John Christianson, read a letter penned by one of Ruark’s earliest victims, a church member, now an adult, who, at age 12, met Ruark in 1994.

The letter described the humiliation the boy felt because of what Ruark did to him and the choice he made to remain silent, believing he alone was in his heartache and being victimized. Ruark joined the boy with other children at a church group outing and sleepovers. The boy ended his silence when he overheard other victims had decided to tell the church archbishop that they had been repeatedly sexually abused by Ruark.

The victim’s letter recounted Ruark’s efforts to teach the orthodox faith to the boy, the books he bought for the boy and friendship between them. One of Ruark’s teachings recalled by the victim was Ruark’s likening sin to disease, with some diseases being more serious than others.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass us against us,” Christianson said, reading from the end of the letter. “I forgive you . . . and I hope you reconcile with God.”

A few minutes later Ruark, his wrinkled hands shaking and clutching a single piece of white paper, stood and read aloud his handwritten note, saying he was deeply sorry for his inexcusable sins.

“We were family,” Ruark told those who had once respected him.

“I desire to be your friend and not your enemy,” Ruark said after invoking Scripture. He said he now had a burden too heavy to bear that he must carry with him for the rest of his life. “Please forgive me my sins,” Ruark said, tears streaming down his face as he sat back down.

Ruark’s sister spoke briefly. She said she did not understand how or why the repeated sexual assaults on children had happened and how out of character they were for her older brother.

“Never forget God loves you and forgives you,” the sister said before returning to her seat in the courtroom, surrounded by dozens of church parishioners.

Judge E. Bradley Nelson told Ruark that he had violated the trust of others in many ways and had violated the principles of the religious beliefs he had espoused.

Nelson then sentenced Ruark to an 18-year prison term that had been agreed to in a January plea deal with prosecutors. Ruark’s defense attorney, Amanda Bevins, reminded Nelson that Ruark had insisted that the victims and parishioners would not have to endure the pain of recalling in court the pain and abuse they suffered at his hand.

Police have said Ruark committed numerous sex assaults on each of his victims and had photographed some of the teens while they were nude.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or jsullivan@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 8 comments

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  • JenMarch 11, 2013 - 9:30 pm

    This is an extremely well written and balanced article. Thank you for handling a topic such as this so respectfully.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Buh ByeMarch 12, 2013 - 5:11 am

    Robert Ruark has been preying on kids his entire adullt life. To hear his empty apologies in court was as empty as he is a man. The only reason he begs for forgiveness today was because he was caught. There are many other vicctims who will never be vocal about what this man did to them. Robert Ruark used two positions of authority and trust to prey on the youth of society. For thethe safety of ourthe shildren, he should never see the outside again.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • pornacMarch 12, 2013 - 6:53 am

    We'll never understand why god let's these things happen. God will still let him in heaven since he was a good pastor.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • FF64March 12, 2013 - 8:19 am

    Huh??? He abused his position of trust as a pastor to sexually assault young men. Seems like a deal breaker to me!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • RichMarch 12, 2013 - 9:02 am

    Let us prey...(not) and let us not suffer unto the children...jeesh....never mind!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • BradMarch 12, 2013 - 9:23 am

    An "Old Yeller" type outing is much more appropriate than a prison sentence. Sexual predators are sickening. There is no reforming these monsters.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • NunMarch 12, 2013 - 9:51 am

    He will get what he deserves while in prison!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Melanie Jula SakodaMarch 12, 2013 - 8:21 pm

    No conviction can restore the innocence lost as a result of childhood sex abuse, but sometimes it can allow a victim to walk away with some feeling of justice. If you are the victim of a sexual assault, report your abuse to the professionals in law enforcement and learn your legal rights. There are people who will believe you and support you. Melanie Jula Sakoda Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) SNAP East Bay Director melanie.sakoda@gmail.com 925-708-6175

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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