Three alleged victims of a North Philadelphia pastor’s sexual abuse described a similar pattern Thursday as they relived details of the courtroom encounters.
The said pastor, Mark Hatcher, 59, of Blue Bell, is said to be waiting to be alone with his victims, who all knew him as a father figure or church leader and were minors at the time. He would strike up an otherwise innocuous conversation, but then suddenly fumble, or in one case, rape the children, the victims told Magistrate District Judge Susan Leonard in her Blue Bell courtroom.
“I tried to accept it and play it cool,” said one victim, who told the judge that Hatcher exposed himself to her before fondling her breasts in a room in his home in 2000. I was terrified, I didn’t know what to do.
Another young man broke down as he recalled the five incidents from 2007 when Hatcher abused him in that same home, his already soft voice failing multiple times.
“I feel like I’m reliving it all, helpless,” the victim said.
For decades, Hatcher has been the head of the headquarters of the Holy Spirit, a Pentecostal church that worships inside the Met on North Broad Street, a position he has held for decades. He was charged last month with rape, statutory sexual assault, bribery of a minor and related offences. His lawyer, Robert Gamburg, did not present an argument against the charges during the preliminary hearing before Leonard on Thursday.
But afterwards he said Hatcher maintains his innocence, denying the allegations of the three victims, two of whom are linked to Hatcher and one of whom is a former Holy Ghost parishioner. Gamburg said the victims all had an unspecified motivation “to fabricate the allegations,” which he said he would pursue at trial in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. He declined to elaborate.
READ MORE: North Philly Church pastor charged with rape and sexual assault after alleged victims come forward decades later
The third The victim said Hatcher, his pastor at Holy Ghost, was in a relationship with his mother in 2006, when she was 13, and he offered to drive her to school twice. Both times Hatcher came to her house alone and kissed and groped her before taking her to school, she said.
Later, after having dinner in New Jersey, the two stopped to check out a home being renovated in Brewerytown that was owned by the church at the time. They entered the house, according to the arrest affidavit, and the girl sat on an old mattress while Hatcher examined a light switch. Hatcher then approached, cornered her and raped her, covering her mouth as she tried to scream for help, according to the affidavit.
The victim previously reported the incident to the Philadelphia Police Department’s Special Victims Unit in 2008, but the city attorney’s office declined to press charges at the time. Jane Roh, the current spokeswoman for the office, said notes in the original case file indicated the accuser was believed and that police and prosecutors found her story credible.
However, for some unspecified reason, Roh said, prosecutors did not believe they could meet the burden of proof in court and did not press charges.
Montgomery County prosecutors began investigating Hatcher in January, when two of his relatives reported the abuse to Whitpain Township police, according to the probable cause affidavit for his arrest.
Both told Leonard on Thursday that they had already reported the abuse to loved ones, with one saying Hatcher’s wife promised he was “getting help.”