A Fullerton man who was a pastor at several churches in Southern California has been charged with 11 felonies in connection with the sex abuse of seven children after being arrested for a second time, authorities announced Monday.
The charges against John Rodgers McFarland include seven counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under 14 years old, and four counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor between 14 and 15, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
He pleaded not guilty to the charged during his arraignment Tuesday.
McFarland, 67, faces up to 179 years in prison if convicted as charged, a news release from the DA’s office stated. His bail was set at $2 million.
The defendant was previously arrested on suspicion of child molestation in Escondido last December after a girl came forward to report the alleged abuse, according to the Fountain Valley Police Department.
During the investigation into that case, police said they uncovered “evidence that McFarland abused other victims.”
He was arrested against last Thursday, according to the DA’s office.
McFarland is suspected of abusing the children between 2003 and 2017, during which time he served as a pastor at several churches in Orange and San Diego churches, prosecutors said.
Most recently, McFarland was the head pastor at Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton, a position he’s held since 2016, according to the release.
From 2011 to 2016, he served as a pastor at Surf City Church in Huntington Beach, and from 1988 to 2016, he was the senior pastor at Fountain Valley United Methodist Church.
His first appointment as a senior pastor came while he was at Calexico United Methodist Church in San Diego County, between 1981 and 1988.
Prior to that, he was a youth pastor at the San Dieguito Methodist Church in Encinitas, where he served for about three years. While there, he also attended Christian youth camps, prosecutors said.
He was also a volunteer chaplain for the Fountain Valley Police and Fire departments, although the DA’s office did not provide any dates.
No additional information about any of the incidents was released.