Pedophile Elder Case in Warrensburg, NY 1982 - Nicholson

by Seeker4 22 Replies latest watchtower child-abuse

  • Seeker4

    I just came across a thread from 2002, (I'll link it here in the next post), about congregations in upstate NY, many that were with a VT circuit I was in for many years. In there I wrote the following about a infamous pedophile case involving an elder, Don Nicholson. Here was part of one of my posts on that thread. I wonder if any remember this? On that thread were many ex-JWs from the Warrensburg, Granville, Whitehall and Ballston Spa, NY congregations from that time. Usernames like dazedandconfused, YHWHWho, els, tinman72, annalice, Rev. Malk. Any of you still around? What I wrote back then is in italics.

    Just checked my files. This is the story, and much of it is public record. I remembered parts of this, then found some participants who were willing to talk when I was helping pull together info for Bill Bowen and the Dateline program.

    The elder who abused several young Witness girls was Donald Nicholson, and the congregation was Warrensburg, NY, around 1982. Nicholson, as I remember, was Dave Tennent's bro-in-law. Don was the assembly overseer at the time, I think, and Dave was his assistant. Dave and I became friends, and he worked helping build the Kingdom Hall where I was an elder. I don't think you were the only sister with a crush on Dave. A very good looking guy. And what a tragic death, and for his family who were with him. (Dave died in an airplance crash.)

    Nicholson's abuse went on for some time, and was eventually exposed. He was charged and tried in Lake George, NY County Court and was sentenced to prison, again around 1982. He was also disfellowshipped. Lee Steele, a former state trooper, was an elder in the congregation, and he had family members who were victims of Nicholson.

    Three of the elders involved in this case, Steele, John Peterson - a CO, and Ross Persons, all have left the Witnesses, to the best of my knowledge.

    One of the elders involved in this case told me that the local elders grilled him because he went to court to testify against Nicholson. They tried to tell him what to say in court, and the brother told me specifially that the local elders did not want this case reported to the secular authorities and tried to prevent that. This elder left the Witnesses.

    This case caused a lot of people to leave the Org. Nicholson was enjoying all sorts of privileges of service at the same time that it later was proven that he was molesting little girls. Needless to say, this totally shook the faith of the familes of the victims.

    Email me privately, and I'll see if we know each other. I eventually ended up as assistant and then assembly overseer myself, but that was after we lost the NY congregations. I used to be over there though in the 80's giving talks, etc.


  • Seeker4

    Here is the link to that long (6 pages) thread about upstate NY congregations.


  • annalice

    yes I am still on this site, and still living in the same area of upstate NY

  • matwater

    I remember hearing about the case, but lived on the other side of the lake (if you're from that part of the country, you'll know what lake I'm talking about).

    I sent you a PM.

  • brojo

    Ironically, Don Nicholson came to mind just a few days ago. I remember him well. I and another brother, Lowie Roscoe, used to vacation with our families at Lake George. We used to attend the Warrensburg cong while on vacation. We both gave public talks there when we would visit. I remember a picnic we had. Don Nicholson was the center of attention. The kids all loved him. This was in the late 70s or early 80s. Later on I heard that he had been arrested for child molestation. Apparently it really rocked the congregation.

    I remember hearing the name Dave Tennent. Lowie Roscoe had met him but I never did. My family did stay with someone who, if I remember correctly, was a single gal who had a colonial house on a main road and we stayed upstairs. I seem to remember that she had some connection with the Tennents I'm but not sure. I remember the policeman, Lee Steele. Another brother I liked was Jack Ashenbach an elder. I have wondered what happened to him. I have often wondered if he was still a JW. He had just built or was in the process of building a beautiful home. That seemed to be his world.

    Actually those vacations were somewhat of an eye opener for me. Us black brothers were being obedient to the society in refraining from materialistic pursuits while the more affluent white brothers in the rurals and suburbs were building beautiful new homes, quietly sending their kids off to college, etc.

    Do you remember a sister named Carol Kruger? She had a sister named Jennie who was married to Bob Grew who used to live here in CT. I have often wondered about him.


  • Seeker4

    Brojo, matwater and annalice,

    Thanks for responding. Yeah, those brothers were all in construction, if I remember, and doing very well materially. Dave Tennant owned his own plane - it was the one he died in, trying to land not too far from where I live right now, in bad weather. He, his daughter, who I think might have been pregnant, and son in law all died.

    I also remember Jack Ashenbach, though I'd have to hear more to stir my memory. I don't recall Carol Kruger, but Bob Grew sounds familiar.

    I have heard that Dave Tenant's wife left the Witnesses. Does anyone know about that? She - like all of them - was a pretty woman. I liked the Tenants a lot, and my wife and I had a fun evening at one district convention having a few drinks with them in our hotel bar.

    Matwater - I'll PM you back. I remember your family.


  • JustMe2

    Some minor (and very late!) details: Don Nicholson wasn't related to David Tennent. Don's brother was Richard Nicholson. David's brother-in-law was Jack Ashenback, who I heard died recently. It was David's son and pregnant daughter-in-law, not the other way around, who died in the plane crash. Elaine Tennent is no longer a Witness.

    Don Nicholson was reinstated, in another congregation, a number of years ago. As far as I know, he is still a Witness.

  • zed is dead
    zed is dead

    It would be interesting to know if Don Nicholson became an elder again.


  • breakfast of champions
  • JustMe2

    Also, it was because Lee Steele was a retired state trooper that he insisted on pressing charges against Don Nicholson.

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