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Wauconda teen accused of abusing girls at church day school
By Georgia Garvey | Daily Herald Staff

Zachary Carlson

 

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Published: 12/18/2007 12:18 AM

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A Wauconda teenager is accused of sexually abusing at least two young girls attending the church day school where he worked as a counselor.

Zachary Carlson, 17, was charged with two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse after Lake County sheriff's police said he abused the children, ages 7 and 8, four times.

The abuse is alleged to have happened during the summer while Carlson worked as a day school counselor for Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wauconda, according to police.

Lake County sheriff's detective Wendell Russell said Carlson, a Wauconda High School senior, pulled the girls aside and convinced them the abuse was part of a game.

Russell said Carlson's mother is director of the day care center at the church, and the church initially did its own investigation before going to police.

"It was reported by the parents, who reported it to the church," Russell said.

The church contacted police, who then ordered the church to report the allegations to the Department of Children and Family Services, Russell said. The church failed to do that, he said.

Representatives from the church did not return a phone call and e-mails seeking comment.

Russell said investigators believe there are other victims but have been unable to get the names or contact information from the church to contact the families.

"We have been unable to get information on where these victims live because the church is not cooperating," Russell said.

He said police believe there may be at least one victim from McHenry County.

Carlson, 400 N. Main St., was arrested at Wauconda High School on Friday.

Wauconda Unit District 118 Superintendent Daniel Coles said the school was presented with a warrant.

"At no time was the educational environment of the students at Wauconda High School disrupted or compromised," Coles said. "The student's arrest was private, quiet and without incident."

Coles also said Carlson "is a student in good standing."

Stephen Simonian, Carlson's attorney, said his client will plead innocent to the charges, which allege abuse over a 14-week period.

"Right now, it's very vague," he said. "We'll be going to court looking to narrow that down."

Simonian said although he has no direct knowledge of the church's actions, he believes it's unlikely they would not be cooperating. "Frankly, I doubt it," he said.

If convicted on all four counts, Carlson could be sentenced to up to 60 years in prison.

As of late Monday afternoon, Carlson remained in Lake County jail on $150,000 bond, according to police. His next court date is Jan. 14.

Anyone with more information on the case should call Russell at (847) 377-4156.