Tulsa Police Say Youth Volunteer Sexually Abused Kids In His Care
TULSA, Oklahoma -
A man who had custody of five children and says he is a volunteer at an Oklahoma Department of Human Services children's shelter has been arrested on eight sexual abuse complaints.
According to court documents, Timothy Shawn Cato, 50, has cared for the children for several years. He reportedly admitted to bathing the children – ages 7 to 17 – and touching their bodies while they are in the bathtub. Cato told child crisis detectives he regularly shares sleeping space with the kids in a room away from his wife and own child, an affidavit says.
Police said he used his status in the community with various youth organizations as a way to get children to trust him and, ultimately, sexually abuse them.
"Some of the victims indicated that they had met him through a program at a church where he was a, what they referred to as a commander of their group, that would do scouting-like activities for boys of a younger age," TPD Sgt. Mike Brown said.
“This is definitely one of the most obvious and disturbing cases of a child predator being in a situation where he's entrusted with the opportunity to deal with these vulnerable children, so it's certainly very, very, difficult to see," Brown said.
Cato told police he works as a volunteer at a DHS shelter, “in which he would routinely every week check two children out of the shelter on a pass and take them to his home where he would bathe them and share a bed with them,” the affidavit says.
Police said Cato told them he has more than 20 years of history as a children's volunteer at churches, as a coach and as staff at summer camps. Cato told authorities he is a past employee of the Little Lighthouse and Town and Country School, court documents state.
Police said Cato told them he has owned and worked at Eastland Christian Academy. Witnesses told police Cato is a former youth pastor at Eastland Assembly Church. The pastor of that church told News On 6 Cato is not the owner of the school and he was not the youth pastor, but he was a volunteer at the church.
Cato reportedly was a volunteer at Falls Creek summer camp as well as a basketball coach for Liberty Upward basketball team and Wright Christian Academy, an affidavit says.
In a statement, spokesman for Falls Creek Conference Center Brian Hobbs said: "Falls Creek Conference Center denies any affiliation with the accused. Every church that attends the camp is required to perform background checks on individuals they bring to camp."
Wright Christian Academy also denied that Cato has or had any affiliation with their organization.
"Mr. Cato was never an employee nor did he ever, according to our records, coach for the academy," school superintendent Jeffrey L. Brown said. "The academy did lease space to Eastland Christian Academy for a brief period of time."
Cato's alleged involvement with children is a long history that, police said, could lead to more allegations. Brown said the case against Cato is strong, and he urges anyone with any additional information to contact the child crisis division.
“We are certainly hoping that if there are additional victims that they will come forward. We don't have any information that would indicate that there are additional victims, however, the suspect has been working in this field for so long that it certainly seems like a very real possibility," Brown said.
According to documents, Cato is paid by OKDHS to provide respite care to children who are in custody of DHS.
He is being held at the Tulsa County jail.