ELGIN — As the news of a local pastor’s arrest on a battery charge continues to reverberate, church members and the accused are mostly refusing to comment on the case, a development the mother of the alleged victim called unsurprising given the tight-knit nature of the small congregation she belonged to for some 18 months.
Last week, authorities alleged that the Rev. Daryl P. Bujak repeatedly spanked a 12-year-old McHenry County girl with a piece of wood molding because he thought she was lying when she told her mother she had been sexually abused by another person. Bujak, 30, is the pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church, 385 Silver St., an independent, unaffiliated church.
Believing her daughter was not telling the truth, the mother by her own admission consented to the beatings, which police say left the girl with bruises and welts on her legs and buttocks. But the mom and authorities now say they believe her daughter was telling the truth about the sexual abuse, and an Ingleside man has been charged with sexually assaulting the girl.
On Tuesday, the girl, who is now 13, spoke to The Courier News with the permission of her mother. She said she feared Bujak’s purported beatings. But the fact that her mom agreed to the sessions left her confused at the time about whether the pastor’s actions were wrong.
“I just thought that … it was OK, it was fine,” she said. “But I hated it.”
On May 8, two days before Bujak was charged in Elgin, Matthew Resh, 33, was arrested and charged in McHenry County with five counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child. The alleged incidents occurred between September 2003 and November 2005, according to authorities, who said Resh faces a minimum 30-year sentence if convicted on all five counts.
The case made headlines around the country, sparking indignation over the sexual abuse and spanking charges, and prompting many to wonder why the mother had consented to the alleged beatings.
As he did on Thursday, when he told The Courier News in his only reported remarks that “the truth is going to come out,” Bujak said he would not comment on the allegations, then suggested there was more to the story.
“We would have no comment at this time,” said Bujak, who lives with his wife and five children in the home attached to the modest church, which stands amid a residential neighborhood on the near west side. “The case is going to be adjudicated in court. Only one side of the story has been reported.”
Congregation members also were terse, declining to answer questions in polite tones before hanging up, abruptly in several instances.
Of those reached, only Bob Steele of Elgin would respond to the question of whether he was supporting Bujak in the wake of the allegations.
“We’re standing by the pastor,” he said. “That’s our only comment.”
At the home of Adam and Kelli Bjork in McHenry, a woman said, “I don’t have any comment at this time, but thank you anyway,” and hung up.
Anna Mitchell of Elgin did the same and Michelle Hamby of Lake in the Hills also declined to answer any questions.
The handful of other church members listed in a recent directory could not be reached.
According to the mother, for around a month starting in March of last year, she brought her daughter to Bujak for disciplining each Wednesday before the 7 p.m. service. First she would speak with the pastor about her daughter’s behavior, then head downstairs while Bujak met with the girl in his first-floor office. The spankings, the mother said, took place in the office and in the nearby women’s bathroom.
Afterward, she said, “He would call me back in, tell me how it went, what he did.” Her daughter would be “outside the door, snuffling and wiping her nose” and “pretty ticked off.”
“He would tell me, ‘You don’t need to tell everyone what’s going on,'” she said. “That was always a little weird to me. I kind of wanted people to know, because I wanted them to pray for us.”
The beatings stopped when Bujak said the girl was too rebellious and the sessions weren’t working, according to the mother.
The girl said she now believes Bujak is “really wrong and needs to get punished for what he did.”
The girl goes to a different church with her mother and said that despite her experience with the pastor, she enjoys attending.
The girl also said she and her mother have grown closer.
“It’s been hard, but we’re getting through it and we’re getting a better relationship now than before,” she said.
After the alleged beatings stopped, the mom continued attending the church with her daughter until October of last year, when the girl gave a more detailed description of the alleged sexual abuse, convincing her mother she was telling the truth.
But when the woman told Bujak she was planning to go to the authorities, “He absolutely freaked out,” she said. Bujak spent more than two hours at her home trying to convince her not tell police about the spankings, then told other parishioners not to have any contact with her, according to the woman.
“He was spinning it like (she) has gone mental, now she’s trying to defame the church,” she said.
Nevertheless, the woman went to Richmond police shortly thereafter with the sexual abuse accusations. Resh was charged only last week because authorities were waiting for processing of DNA evidence by the crime laboratory, according to Nichole Owens, chief of the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office Criminal Division. Owens declined to say if the evidence was a match to Resh.
Elgin police first learned about the allegations against Bujak on March 14 of this year from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The mother said it was not until around that time that her daughter mentioned the spankings for the first time, to a private counselor. The counselor, according to the mother, then informed DCFS, which in turn contacted police.
Elgin police have not recovered the piece of wood molding they say Bujak used to beat the girl, according to Lt. Mike Turner. Police said the object was 3 feet long by 2 inches wide. Turner said police are not actively searching for any other potential victims. The congregation includes several couples with children.
“We’re not going to interview the whole congregation,” he said.
Optimistic for healing
Despite all the strains on her relationship with her daughter, the mother echoed the girl, saying they have grown closer.
“So far it’s been great,” she said. “It’s been like a 360 or a 180 or whatever they say. She obviously felt highly betrayed by me, which is completely true and understandable.”
“This has all bonded us in many ways,” she added. “I’m seeing now that this child I thought she was all these years was just a complete facade. Our whole past as we know it isn’t what we thought it was.”
The woman said she was optimistic about her daughter’s ability to recover and move on with her life, stating that the charges against the two men and the widespread coverage of the case have the girl feeling “vindicated.”
“She’s a real strong girl,” she said. “She’s got enough intelligence to realize not all men are going to do this to her.”
The mother said she understands that many are astonished by her willingness to go along with the alleged beatings. But she said she trusted Bujak, partly because he was a man of faith, and partly because he told her he was a former police officer who had dealt with molested girls before and that her daughter did not show signs of having been abused. She said that when she began to talk about contacting police, Bujak insisted he had never said he had been a police officer and told her that he had only worked for about six months in a 911 call center.
Both Bujak and Resh were freed after posting bond last week.
According to the mother, a 19-year-old man from the neighborhood around the church also lives with Bujak and his family.
A DCFS spokesman said the department is investigating Bujak but declined to comment further because the investigation is ongoing.
The mother said she was not surprised by the refusal of other parishioners to address the charges against the pastor.
“It’s a closed group,” she said. “They’re all very devoted to him.”
“I’m sure he put the lockdown on everybody,” she added. Bujak has probably told church members that “this is an attack of Satan against them and I’m just trying to slander them,” she said.
First Missionary has an extensive Web site, on which it describes itself as “fundamental,” and calls the Bible “pure, perfect, inerrant and infallible.”
On a message board on the Web site of The Providence Journal is what appears to be a message from Bujak to a parishioner’s son who was serving in the military in Iraq at the time.
“My name is Pastor Bujak from First Miss. Baptist Church here in Elgin,” the message states.
In it, Bujak says he is “faithfully praying for your safety while serving our country, and your safe return.”
“We do not take for granted the sacrifices you have made during this time in our nation’s history,” Bujak wrote. “After viewing all the messages on your bio page, it looks like you have many friends and loved ones who are awaiting your return!”
The note concludes, “In Christ, Pastor Bujak.”