WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) - Only on 9 tonight, a cautionary tale about the importance of doing a -national- background check before hiring -anyone-.
A local church learned the hard way when it discovered 10 days ago that it had a registered child sex offender on its staff.
Andrea McCarren uncovered this story and is here to tell us more.
Matthews Memorial Baptist Church is a beautiful, historic church in Southeast Washington. It has a congregation of 1,900 and its leadership tried to do everything right when it screened a new employee.
"We were shocked. We're still in shock," said Dr. C. Matthew Hudson, Jr., Senior Pastor of the church.
That shock and sense of betrayal is over 33-year-old Gary Mabry of Baltimore, a talented and charismatic pipe organist hired by this church five months ago. No one suspected he was a registered child sex offender.
"It is heart-wrenching to see him for he is in this picture.... How could we miss that?" said Hudson.
The historic Southeast Washington church did a criminal background check before hiring Mabry, but it didn't turn up this 1999 conviction in D.C. for which he pleaded guilty to child sex abuse.
In 2001, he pleaded guilty AGAIN to child sex abuse, this time in Maryland. Records reveal Mabry served six years in prison. And the court strongly recommended that he "receive treatment for sexual deviant conduct."
"What we say around here, we trust God, not people. Because people of faith do lie," Hudson said.
Mabry's criminal history only came to light after he violated church policy this month by getting together with a 16-year-old girl outside of church. He was abruptly fired.
"So now we know even more we're going to shore up to make sure that nobody is alone with young people. Especially now," Hudson said.
Police were called, but since the girl is 16 - the legal age of consent in D.C. and Maryland - officers said there was no need for further investigation. But the church learned a tough lesson and from now on, will conduct only national background checks on potential employees.
Again, Mabry has not been charged with a crime. He is under state supervision, but he has no special conditions placed on him by the court which would restrict his activities or places of employment, including his ability to work with children.
The church was willing to speak with us to help make others aware of the National Sex Offender Registry coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice.