LANCASTER – A former Desert Christian Schools employee may spend the rest of his life in prison for molesting young girls during Sunday church services at Grace Chapel in Lancaster.
Jonathan Michael Macy, who pleaded no contest last month to lewd acts on a child and admitted the special allegation of more than one victim, was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years to life in state prison.
“You should never, ever be in the company of children as far as I’m concerned,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Daviann Mitchell said to Macy.
“Mr. Macy is a threat to the children here in the Antelope Valley,” said Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami.
Macy worked at Grace Chapel and Desert Christian Schools in Lancaster, both on the same Lancaster campus. The 31-year-old was convicted of molesting two girls, ages 11 and 12, during Sunday church services at Grace Chapel. However, detectives know of at least five more young victims.
Additional charges were not filed against Macy because the prosecution and the defense, with approval from the victims’ families, agreed to the plea deal to protect the young victims from further emotional trauma.
Some of the victims’ family members gave victim impact statements Tuesday at Macy’s sentencing hearing.
Anne A. tearfully read her daughter’s letter to Macy, which stated that the girl had forgiven Macy and the incident had opened her “eyes to Christ.”
“I forgive you but that doesn’t mean there’s not anger in my heart over what you did,” the victim’s letter stated.
Anne said she was “broken hearted” over what happened to her daughter, and she was praying “for the peace that only God can give.”
Tiffiny A. said her 3-year-old granddaughter knew Macy while attending daycare at Desert Christian, and the child called Macy “the trash man” because Macy picked up trash around the campus. The child’s grandmother said she noticed unusual behavior in March or April. “We couldn’t get her to smile…she wanted to hide all the time,” Tiffiny said.
She said her “natural instincts kicked in” when she was helping the child get dressed for school and the 3-year-old “cringed and shuddered.”
Soon after, the child told family members about “the trash man,” Tiffiny said.
“She told some things that no little girl should have to tell her parents… it just broke our hearts,” Tiffiny said.
Macy reported to school, church officials in spring 2014
The 3-year-old’s family reported Macy for molestation months before his arrest, and detectives from the Sheriff Department’s Special Victims Bureau spoke to officials at Desert Christian Schools and Grace Chapel, according to the prosecutor.
However, that case fell apart because the child eventually shut down and she was deemed too young to testify.
“We kept that case around just in case, and then older children came forward and he ended up admitting,” Hatami said.
The two older girls came forward with accusations against Macy in August, and detectives again spoke to officials at Desert Christian Schools and Grace Chapel. This time around, Macy admitted to the molestations, and he was arrested on Aug. 13 and charged two days later with two counts of lewd acts upon a child under 14.
In a press statement issued shortly after Macy’s arrest, Desert Christian Schools’ Executive Director Cecil Swetland said Macy was removed from the school’s campus, no longer employed by Desert Christian, and unable to access the campus.
“We immediately informed all parents and staff about the pending investigation via email on Friday, August 8,” Swetland said in the statement.
Macy pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Aug. 15; and then he pleaded no contest on Sept. 12.
A plea for leniency
At the sentencing hearing Tuesday, Macy’s family and friends asked the judge for leniency based on Macy’s willingness to assume full responsibility.
In a letter to Judge Mitchell, Carol and Michael Macy said their son had confessed to detectives and had not requested a lawyer or bargained for a lesser sentence.
Family friend Jill Krieger said the sentence seemed excessive and asked the judge to “reject the plea deal and perhaps lower [Macy’s] sentence.”
Michelle Palmer described Macy as “industrious, humble and gentle” and said Macy deeply regretted his actions. She asked the judge to reject the plea deal due to Macy’s voluntary confession and his desire to protect his church, the families and the victims.
However, the prosecutor said Macy had been facing 30 years to life based on the original charges alone, and would have faced even more time had the additional charges been filed. The 15-years-to-life prison sentence was necessary to provide justice for Macy’s seven victims, Hatami said.
In rejecting requests to lower Macy’s sentence, Judge Mitchell said, “These children have been sentenced to a lifetime of grief.”
The judge also issued a protective order barring Macy from coming into contact with any of the seven victims and ordered Macy to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Macy will be eligible for parole in 15 years, but a parole board will have the ability to keep him in prison for the rest of his life.
Desert Christian, Grace Chapel respond to sentencing hearing
After Macy’s sentencing hearing, both Desert Christian Schools and Grace Chapel released media statements.
Desert Christian Schools’ media statement:
“Desert Christian Schools’ highest priority is the safety of our students. We are pleased that the painful saga associated with Jonathan Macy has come to a conclusion with a formal sentence rendered today. We know, however, that this matter will continue to weigh heavily on those involved. We are committed to providing comfort and support for those affected. We want to thank law enforcement for their efforts in handling this situation. Throughout the process, we have worked closely with them and sincerely appreciate their professionalism. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those involved in this tragic series of events.”
Grace Chapel’s media statement:
“Grace Chapel is committed to the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of our church members and families. Having learned that this case regarding Jonathan Macy has been resolved in a sentencing hearing earlier today, we are comforted that this matter has been brought to a resolution and we will continue to care for and support the families involved as they deal with the serious impact on their lives. We also want to express our gratitude for law enforcement officials and applaud them for their care and professionalism. Having worked closely with them throughout the investigation, we are thankful for their dedication to excellence.”
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