(Editor's Note: Readers are advised the following story contains information about charges and accusations involving child molestation.)
The cases of two men charged with child molestation — one the Sutter County jail commander and the other a pornographer-turned-pastor — have become entangled early on in investigations.
Police detectives and staff at the District Attorney's Office are unwilling to release too much information so early in the process for fear of harming on-going investigations. But public documents and comments made during court hearings provide some details of the charges against the two men, as well as why bail was set so high and whether or not there could be concern for conflicts of interest in the prosecution.
Lewis McElfresh Jr., 57, and Donny Pauling Jr., 41, recently were arrested, booked into jail, and charged in Sutter County Superior Court.
Authorities allege McElfresh watched Pauling rape a girl during a meeting he arranged between August and December. An officer declaration alleges that McElfresh masturbated while watching.
Pauling has not yet been charged in that case, but he faces statutory rape charges for a different case in which there was an alleged ongoing sexual relatio ship with a different minor teenage girl. A court document, in that case, included: "(The) victim said she and suspect would have sex and he would use the sexual intercourse as a way to bribe the victim for the things she wanted or needed." The document also says, "(Pauling) told her he was not like other child molesters because he actually loved her."
Pauling denied they engaged in sexual acts with minors and has pleaded not guilty.
McElfresh's attorney said they would fight all the charges.
Pauling was arrested Dec. 1, then transferred to Colusa County Jail on Dec. 6 after investigators learned there was a second alleged victim, who was related to a sheriff's employee.
When the Appeal-Democrat on Dec. 9 asked McElfresh, then still in command of the jail, why Pauling was transferred, McElfresh said he didn't know.
McElfresh was then arrested Dec. 16, by the Yuba City police department, which took over the investigation from the Sheriff's Department. That day, Sheriff J. Paul Parker said McElfresh was unaware of the allegations and investigation until he was arrested.
Pauling is being held in Colusa County Jail on $500,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court again on Jan. 7.
McElfresh is in custody in Yolo County Jail with a $5 million bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 23.
Key Questions & Answers
Q: Why is McElfresh's bail so high?
Investigators requested a $5 million bail Dec. 16, the day Lewis McElfresh was arrested at the Sheriff's Department, out of fear for public safety and the safety of the alleged victim.
Judge Brian Aronson kept the bail at $5 million during a bail review hearing in Sutter County Superior Court on Thursday.
Investigators were told McElfresh said that if confronted with legal problems he's "going to take out a lot of people," according to a police declaration for bail enhancement.
"McElfresh has an extensive SWAT background and weapons," the document says.
Jesse Santana, McElfresh's attorney, said McElfresh has no criminal record and the bail schedule for the charges is set around $150,000.
"His intent is not to hurt anybody he loves," Santana said about the alleged victim's safety.
McElfresh would be willing to have a court-ordered ankle monitor, Santana said, which allows law enforcement to track him within seconds.
"Not to be dramatic, but seconds is sometimes all it takes," said District Attorney Amanda Hopper. "The safety and protection of the community is paramount in this case."
Hopper also argued that his sex addiction poses the risk of other future victims.
The crimes he is alleged to have committed are egregious because they involve a vulnerable juvenile, whom McElfresh should have been protecting, she said.
"That he would masturbate while she was violated — it's appalling," Hopper said.
Q: Will the Sutter County District Attorney's Office handle the case?
The District Attorney's Office filed criminal charges against McElfresh, a Sutter County Sheriff's Department employee and plans to proceed with prosecution.
District Attorney Amanda Hopper said Thursday she spoke with the State Attorney General's Office and they do not see a conflict. She said her office plans to remain in communication with the state office.
Jesse Santana, McElfresh's attorney, said he plans to file a motion to recuse the District Attorney's Office from the case due to a conflict of interest.
The motion will be heard in Sutter County Superior Court on Jan. 23.
The District Attorney's Office has prosecuted sheriff's employees before.
A Sutter County jail corrections officer was arrested in September on suspicion of methamphetamines, and the Sutter County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting the case.
Prior to Hopper's election in November, the office was questioned about how a report was handled involving another corrections officer. Assistant District Attorney Jana McClung reviewed the case and decided not to hand the case to the state, although there may have been a conflict of interest.
A grand jury was asked to review McClung's decision.
Q: What is the evidence against Pauling?
A 16-year-old girl and her parents told Sutter County sheriff's investigators Nov. 30 that Donny Pauling had been molesting her for three years, according to an affidavit for a search warrant.
The investigation is ongoing, but some information is available in public documents.
The alleged victim said that beginning in June, Pauling had been having sex with her daily in his house, the document says.
She said Pauling said he would kill himself if she ever told law enforcement officials, and he had two firearms at his residence.
She also said he took sexually explicit photos of her and she suspected he posted some of them on a website.
Investigators recovered multiple computers, iPads and phones during a search of Pauling's home Dec. 1.
Q: What is the evidence against McElfresh?
The alleged victim's boyfriend recorded a conversation between himself and Lewis McElfresh about the alleged molestation, according to a declaration in support of bail enhancement.
The recording was transferred to Sutter County Sheriff J. Paul Parker, who then transferred it to Yuba City police. The author of the declaration says he recognized the male voice in the recording to be McElfresh.
In the recording, the boy confronts McElfresh about sitting and watching a grown man violate the girl.
"I know," McElfresh is alleged to have said.
The boy says McElfresh sat on the couch and masturbated.
"McElfresh replied, 'You're right. I have a problem. You're absolutely correct, and I have to get it fixed,'" the document says.
A witness, interviewed Dec. 15, said she was told that McElfresh has had an inappropriate relationship in the past. That witness also said that McElfresh was aware of the recording.
The investigation is ongoing and not all evidence is public.
"An in-depth investigation has yielded significant evidence giving foundation to the charges we filed," said District Attorney Amanda Hopper.
— Monica Vaughan
Who they are and what charges they are facing
Donny Pauling Jr., 41, Yuba City
Pauling is a local anti-porn activist and motivational religious speaker, who describes himself as a former pornography producer.
Felony: Lewd and lascivious acts with a child 14 or 15 when the defendant was at least more than 10 years older than the alleged victim (between Oct. 1, 2012 and Nov. 2014) .
Felony: Unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.
Lewis Frederick McElfresh Jr., 57, Yuba City
McElfresh is a captain with the Sutter County Sheriff's Department, where he was hired as a sheriff's deputy in 1993 after military service.
Felony: Burglary, entering an inhabited dwelling of another with intent to commit any felony.
Felony: Arrange a meeting with a minor for the purpose of exposing genitals or engaging in lewd and lascivious behavior (between Aug. 1, 2014, and Dec. 15, 2014).
Felony: Engage in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who was more than 3 years or younger than perpetrator.
Felony: Wilfull child cruelty.
Felony: Sell or give possession of a firearm to prohibited person.
Misdemeanor: Annoy or molest a child under 18.
Misdemeanor: Indecent exposure.