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Cops: Churchgoing man preyed on children

Philadelphia police today announced the arrest of a Northeast man they say repeatedly molested five girls who attended his church a decade ago, one of whom is a relative.

Capt. John Darby of the Special Victims Unit said that Courtney Wilson, 56, was a member of the Remnant Church of God 7th Day, in the city's Cedarbrook section, for many years. Recently, Darby said, five women came to police and reported that beginning in 1997, Wilson sexually assaulted them repeatedly and over a period of years.

Wilson, of the 500 block of Brighton Street in the city's Lawndale section, has been charged with multiple counts of 14 offenses, including rape, sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, intimidation of a witness, statuatory rape and indecent assault.

At the time of his arrest yesterday, Darby said, Wilson also worked for Carson Valley Children's Aid in Flourtown, a non-profit children's welfare agency. Police have since contacted the organization, as well as the Department of Human Services, and the agencies are cooperating with the police investigation, Darby said.

The victims, who Darby said are between 22 and 27 years old, told police that they and their families met Wilson through the church. Wilson got to know their families, Darby said, and would bring the children to church activities, or take them to school. One of the women is a member of Wilson's family.

"People became comfortable with him," Darby said. "He gained the confidence of everyone."

The women told police that Wilson assaulted them in their homes, in his home, in vehicles and in a hotel. The abuse continued until 2005, Darby said. Investigators are not certain what motivated the women to come forward, Darby said.

Police believe there may be more victims and asked them to contact the Special Victims Unit at 685-3251, 3252 or 3253.