Gerald Klever has been living out his golden years in the Catalina Foothills, a wealthy suburb of Tucson, Ariz. - more than 2,000 miles from Springfield's First Presbyterian Church, where he allegedly sexually assaulted members of a youth group decades ago.
But he couldn't outrun the statute of limitations.
In fact, Klever's decision to leave Pennsylvania in 1983 is the only reason Delaware County authorities were able to arrest the former pastor last year on charges that include rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse that are more than a quarter-century old. Now the game is up.
Klever, 76, has reached a plea deal with county prosecutors and was expected to be sentenced today in the Media courthouse by Common Pleas Judge James Nilon Jr.
Authorities say Klever, while serving at First Presbyterian between 1977 and 1983, raped and sexually assaulted girls in his youth group, telling one 12-year-old that "to get close to God she needed to get close to him" and allegedly forcing a teenager to perform oral sex on him more than 100 times over three years.
"A lot of the people that commit these crimes, they stay in Pennsylvania and time runs out on them," Springfield Detective Daniel McNeely, who led the investigation, said of the timeline for prosecuting sex offenses. "This is one of those rare cases where as soon as the crime was committed, he basically moved out of Pennsylvania."
That froze the clock on the statute of limitations, leaving the former spiritual leader open to charges from as far back as 1980.
"He had no idea that he was going to be charged with something like this," said McNeely, who, along with Tucson authorities, arrested Klever at his Arizona home in January 2007.
At Klever's preliminary hearing last May, one alleged victim testified that he had threatened to reveal her family's "deep, dark secret" - her father was a transvestite - if she didn't perform oral sex on him in his church office.
A second woman said he had raped her at a pool party in 1980, when she was 16 - then had done it again the next year after tying her to a bed during a church retreat. "A couple times I tried to yell out and he smacked me," she said.
Klever's Philadelphia attorney, Theodore Simon declined to comment yesterday, as did Deputy District Attorney Sheldon Kovach, who is prosecuting the case.
Robert DiOrio, a lawyer for one victim, said his client is "extremely pleased and relieved that this perpetrator is finally being brought to justice after all these years."
Klever, who resigned as a Democratic committeeman in Arizona's Pima County in March 2007, was extradited to Springfield the following month and released on $250,000 bail.
In 1988, Klever resigned as pastor of Sixth Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., amid "several accusations of sexual misconduct" with adults, church officials said last year. His ordination credentials were revoked in 1993.
The alleged victims from First Presbyterian are expected to make statements in court today before Klever is sentenced.