SALT LAKE CITY –
A former Utah city mayor and bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been arrested for allegedly sexually abusing at least three children decades ago.
Carl Matthew Johnson, 77, was arrested Wednesday and booked into the Davis County Jail in northern Utah on suspicion of seven counts of child molestation, according to a probable cause statement.
Investigators said Johnson admitted to abusing three victims in 1985, 1993 and 1996 and estimated a total of six victims who were only two years old, according to the document. He told investigators he had struggled to “control his sexual desires” for most of his life.
Some of the alleged abuses occurred during the same years he was mayor of West Bountiful, a city just outside of Salt Lake City that he led from 1990-97.
The investigation is still ongoing, but so far Johnson has only been charged with stemming from three victims. Johnson has yet to be charged as of Thursday afternoon and it is unclear if he has an attorney.
Johnson was in a “trust” position with respect to each victim, but investigators did not explain what that was in the probable cause document. Stephanie Dinsmore, a spokeswoman for the Davis County Sheriff’s Office, also declined to elaborate.
The victims told investigators they were told not to tell anyone, and Johnson used his position to prevent the disclosure, according to the probable cause statement.
Dinsmore initially declined to comment on when Johnson was bishop of a congregation of the faith widely known as the Mormon church, saying in a statement that the agency would not comment on “relationships” Johnson’s relationship with faith.
She later revealed that he was bishop from 1974-1979. Bishops are lay clergy who oversee local congregations for several years at a time with a rotating role reserved for men of the faith widely known as the Mormon church.
Sam Penrod, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a statement that the allegations were “grave and deeply troubling” and reiterated the church’s position that faith does not tolerate any form of abuse.
“Those who engage in abuse will be rightfully prosecuted by law enforcement agencies and also face loss of church membership,” Penrod said.
The faith has come under close scrutiny after an Associated Press investigation found flaws in the way it handled reporting of sexual abuse allegations made to bishops. The church has defended the system and accused the AP of misinterpreting its reporting system.
The AP reported on Thursday that a Utah congressman advised an Arizona church bishop not to report a child sex abuse confession to authorities, a decision that has allowed the abuse to continue. continued for years, according to a lawsuit filed.