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Police Say Pastor Did Not Report Sex Abuse

Putnam Pastor Felix Chivandire Was Arrested After Allegedly Failing To Report Child Sexual Abuse

Jan 17, 2003 | Norwich Bulletin

The pastor of a small Putnam church was arrested Thursday for allegedly failing to report a sexual abuse case to authorities.

Felix Chivandire, 29, of 1 Knollwood Lane, Putnam, turned himself in at the Danielson state police barracks Thursday morning. There, he was formally charged with failure to report abuse by a mandated reporter. He was arrested by detectives from the Eastern District Major Crime Squad, who had obtained a warrant after a lengthy investigation into the sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl from Thompson.

Because Chivandire is a church pastor, he is classified by state law as a "mandated reporter."

That means he is required, under law, to report any suspected incidents of child abuse or sexual abuse to the state.

"There's a wide variety of professions required under the law," DCF Spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said Thursday. "If you fall within a variety of different job classifications, then you are required, by law, to report to the DCF hotline."

In general, according to DCF officials, clergy, coaches, educators and medical professionals are labeled "mandated reporters" by the state.

DCF Commissioner Christine Ragaglia said "mandated reporters" are vital to the department.

"There is no more serious responsibility than to report suspected child abuse," Ragaglia said. "This is especially true for those persons such as clergy in whom the state places a statutory obligation to report suspected abuse because of their special relationship with children."

State police said they began the investigation into the sexual assault in August 2002. More arrests are expected in the case, police said, including that of the alleged assailant, whose identity was not revealed.

Chivandire was released Thursday after posting a $5,000 cash bond. He is scheduled to be presented on the charge Jan. 27 in Danielson Superior Court.

No problems before

Putnam Mayor Daniel Rovero said the nondenominational Eagle's Wings Christian Center rents a storefront at 554 Liberty Highway (Route 21). It is in a small mall a short distance south of Route 44.

He said the town has had dealings with the church before. The organization has hosted children's events in the past at Rotary Park and at town parking lots.

Rovero said the events were religious-themed endeavors featuring arts and crafts and various games.

He said the Board of Selectmen had no problems when it gave the group permission and the church's events have not been problematic.

Putnam problems

While the alleged incident happened in Thompson, Rovero said he is disappointed Putnam is, once again, center to a sexual assault-related arrest.

On Tuesday, Putnam service station owner Craig Newcombe, 52, of Bayer Road, Thompson, was arrested on several morals charges, including varying degrees of sexual assault.

Newcombe was arraigned in Danielson Superior Court Thursday and will appear in court Jan. 31.

He owns the Texaco station on Church Street in Putnam and police said the allegations stem from his involvement with minor children at the site.

Chivandire's arrest was the third in recent days in cases in which a child was the victim of an alleged sexual assault.

On Jan. 8, Donald Bailey, 52, of 100 Ashford Road in Eastford, was arrested on charges that he allegedly sexually assaulted and exploited young children into performing pornographic acts. At least three young children were the victims in that case.

Rovero said he hoped local and state law enforcement would get to the bottom of the problem.

"We know it's out there, but we hope the police work we have will put a stop to it," Rovero said. "We just wish it wouldn't happen."

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