WARNING: Descriptions of sexual assault and rape may be disturbing to some viewers.

(TELLER COUNTY, Colo.) — An arrest affidavit detailing a religious leader charged with sexual assault on a child reveals allegations dating as far back as the 1970s and inaction by those in positions of power.

Affidavit: Religious elder abused, raped children for decades
Courtesy of Teller County Sheriff’s Office

Shawn Lance Swisher, 60, was arrested at his home in Teller County on Tuesday, Dec. 20. He is known as a “highly respected,” and trusted elder at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness located at 1035 Woodland Avenue in Woodland Park, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit lists eight victims and numerous witnesses in the case against Swisher, many of whom were “close family friends,” with Swisher. According to the affidavit, victims struggled to come forward because “the Swisher family was very prominent in Woodland Park and Teller County.” Victims claim that Swisher also manipulated them into keeping silent by using his status or telling children that their parents were okay with what he was doing.

Witnesses and victims in the affidavit claim Swisher was extremely “handsy,” “even up to an age where [children] had matured and it was no longer funny or appropriate.” According to the affidavit, Swisher would grab children, bend them over until they were pressed up against his private areas, and grope the front of victims’ bodies. One witness stated that Swisher was always touching the backs or necks of children or grabbing their hair.

In the affidavit, one victim recounted when Swisher was at their house for a bible study and had entered the victim’s bedroom. Swisher allegedly unzipped his pants to show his penis. The victim remembered Swisher warning them that they, “couldn’t tell anyone, because no one would believe [redacted] anyway, because of who he was.”

Another victim was between the ages of four and six when Swisher allegedly sexually assaulted them in a car. According to the victim, Swisher led the victim to his car after a convention. The victim remembered “holding his hands skipping to his car.” Swisher is accused of sitting the victim in his lap while moving the victim’s underwear to the side where he proceeded to use his fingers to sexually assault the victim. According to the affidavit, Swisher unzipped his pants at which point the victim was unable to distinguish if they were continuously being assaulted by Swisher’s hands or his penis.

The affidavit also listed multiple claims of Swisher drugging victims before sexually assaulting them. One victim said they were drugged while taking a break during “field service.” The victim was allegedly put in “very compromising positions” while pictures and videos were taken throughout the assault. Swisher is accused along with other adults of taking turns performing sexual acts and videotaping the assault, per court documents. After this incident, the victim claimed they reported everything to two elders at the Kingdom Hall in Meeker and spoke with a third elder by the name of TJ Nichols. According to the victim’s statement, they were told the elders would make a report to the police and notify the congregation that Swisher was a threat. The Meeker Police Department said no report was ever filed.

In another incident during field service, a witness claimed that all the Swisher boys that included Greg Swisher, Jeramy Swisher and Shawn Swisher would “brush against girls’ breasts with their elbows or shoulders.” The affidavit claimed Shawn Swisher was the worst.

The affidavit includes allegations from a 16-year-old victim who was delivering packages to Swisher’s home. The victim recalled standing in Swisher’s doorway, then seeing Swisher with what looked like a needle, and finally lying on their back while being raped in the living room. The victim stated that Swisher’s father, Gordon Swisher, was in his recliner watching while Swisher raped the victim. The affidavit stated that the victim “focused on the window with the light coming through the blinds,” while being attacked. After the assault, Swisher “threw [redacted] out like garbage.” In a zoom meeting that included other elders, Swisher was confronted by the victim but denied all accusations stating he never touched, hurt or raped the victim, per court documents.

Another victim accused Swisher of being part of an occult that took place at a house located in the 300 block of Brook Lane in Turkey Rock in Teller County. At different times of the year, the occult would allegedly get together to torture and sexually abuse victims, according to the affidavit. A victim stated that Swisher became the ring leader in 2002 and continued the tradition of regularly raping victims. The victim also listed two others in the congregation that were part of the occult.

Many of those who reported Swisher to the elders say that the elders, “did not do anything.” One elder who forcefully tried to get Swisher off of a minor during an assault was aware of the numerous victims. The elder was later removed from his position when “they would not stop investigating,” according to the affidavit.

One witness stated that “reporting these things to law enforcement was not something you ever did. [redacted] that’s how they were raised, it was common knowledge that these things would be handled within the congregation because the punishment that God gave was worse than the punishment that men gave you.”

Countless times, victims were told not to go to the authorities because the elders would “handle it in-house,” according to court documents. “Victims were afraid to report these incidents because they would lose privileges in the Kingdom Hall or be excommunicated, the congregation would cease interaction with the individual,” said a victim.