Santa Rosa church leader arrested in connection with child sex assault

A Santa Rosa man who works as a church youth leader has been arrested for alleged child sexual assault.

Drue Mordecai, 55, has been in custody since his arrest on Jan. 25, one day after the allegations came to light.

"We were able to move fast, got some lucky breaks that allowed us to move the case forward," said Sgt. Chris Mahurin of the Santa Rosa Police Department. "This actually began when the child was 12 years old."

The accuser, now 17, has disclosed years of alleged sexual abuse.

Twelve felony charges were swiftly filed by the Sonoma County District Attorney, ranging from lewd acts with a child to sodomy and aggravated sexual assault.

Bail has been set at $3 million.

"We don't know the exact grooming techniques he used or the way he forced the child to do things he didn't want to do," said Mahurin, noting that investigators are seeking witnesses and other potential victims. "He could have had interactions with dozens of teenagers since he began volunteering at the church."

The boy met Mordecai at the New Vintage Church in Santa Rosa, where both are members.     

"Well it's definitely shocking because he's well-known, " said Lead Pastor Darren Youngstrom, who assumed his post with the 400-member congregation five months ago. "Drue had a really good name with all the people at our church because he's been here since he was a boy so everybody knows him." 

The new pastor vetted all volunteers on his arrival, requiring applications, interviews and background checks. 

"I've been working with students and adults for over 20 years, and I’ve got pretty good radar," said Youngstrom, admitting there were no red flags.

For many years, Mordecai has been a volunteer youth leader, one of several helping with weekly Bible study for about 30 teenagers.

As soon as the allegations surfaced, parents of children in youth ministry were informed. 

There is no indication any incident occurred on church grounds. 

"It's sad and we are awaiting the results, letting the process play out," said Youngstrom.

On Mordecai's Facebook page, he has posted photos of boys on group outings - with and without him - amid lighthearted holiday selfies.

"We suspend judgment," said Youngstrom, "and we want to be prayerful and kind and loving to each person in this situation and honor the process honestly."

Police say some of the crimes occurred at Mordecai's Santa Rosa home.

They note, shame and fear often combine to silence victims until they finally feel safe coming forward.

"When they feel they're going to be trusted and taken care of and looked after," said Sgt. Mahurin, "and that they're going to get the justice and support they need from the people around them."

Mordecai was arrested without incident at The Fountaingrove Lodge, an over-55 community for LGBTQ retirees, where he worked as the marketing director.

Youngstrom says he is not sure how he will address the arrest with parishioners on Sunday. 

"We are all feeling the same thing, we want to make sure all kids are safe, and we're going to wait and see what happens."

Santa Rosa Police ask that anyone with information on the case contact them through Information can remain anonymous.

Debora Villalon is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Debora at and follow her on Twitter@DeboraKTVU