A Santa Rosa man in jail on suspicion of repeatedly sexually assaulting a minor over a period of five years knew his victim socially through a family connection, police said Wednesday.
Drue James Mordecai, 55, remained in the Sonoma County Jail, held on $3 million bail, and faces several felony charges related to the statements of a teenage victim, who reported to police that the man had abused them, said Sgt. Chris Mahurin, a spokesman for the Santa Rosa Police Department.
Court records listed 27 felony charges and two enhancements against Mordecai in the case, which included nine charges of assaulting a minor with the intent to commit a felony and five counts of committing a lewd act with a child.
Mordecai was arrested Jan. 28, after investigators with the Police Department determined they had gathered enough evidence to arrest him, police said.
He was arraigned in Sonoma County Superior Court on Monday, and the Santa Rosa Police Department released news of the arrest the following day, asking for anyone with information to come forward.
The victim and Mordecai both attended New Vintage Church in Santa Rosa, where he was a volunteer small group leader working with high school-age students for several years, Mahurin said.
It was unclear how regularly Mordecai was around students at the church or how consistent his volunteer activities were, he added.
Phone calls to the New Vintage Church seeking comment from Darren Youngstrom, the church’s lead pastor, were not returned Wednesday, nor was a request for comment from Chris Andrian, Mordecai’s lawyer.
An email to Andy VomSteeg, a man who identifies himself as having been the church’s lead pastor between 1999 and November 2019 in his LinkedIn page, also did not return an emailed request for comment Wednesday.
The Fountaingrove Lodge, an LGBT senior living community in Santa Rosa, listed Mordecai as their marketing director on Tuesday. A request for comment from the business on Wednesday, when that information no longer appeared on the site, was not returned later that afternoon.
The victim was 12 years old when the abuse started and there was no evidence that pointed to the abuse happening at the church itself, police said.
Social connections to the victim through other family members meant that Mordecai was able to interact with the youth outside of the church campus, Mahurin said.
When police had gathered details to begin confirming the victim’s testimony, Mahurin said, they also contacted Youngstrom, who sent word to the families of students who had interacted with Mordecai over the years that the abuse was suspected.
“He did a great job of communicating with us, cooperating with the investigation,” Mahurin said of Youngstrom. Mordecai would have had to pass a background check to work with students at New Vintage, Mahurin said.
Police are asking for anyone with information about this assault, or who was or who knows someone who may have been victimized to make a report through the department’s online tip line.
Mahurin said Wednesday that the department had received several tips after publishing its news release, but that no additional victims had been identified or come forward.
Mordecai is scheduled to enter a plea in a court on Monday, according to Sonoma County Superior Court records.
Following Mordecai’s arrest, prosecutors requested his bail remain at $3 million, which was granted by a judge, Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell said.