A volunteer Sunday school teacher in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach molested seven boys, many of whom he convinced with a ruse to pose for lewd photographs to be used by a sculptor, a prosecutor alleged Wednesday.
Christopher Bryan McKenzie’s attorney, however, said in his opening statement that his client is “shocked” by the allegations and will seek a full acquittal.
McKenzie taught Sunday school at Christ Church by the Sea in Newport Beach from 2004 to 2006 and at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa. He met three of his alleged victims through Rock Harbor, one through Christ Church by the Sea, two through relatives and one at his apartment complex in Costa Mesa, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown.
McKenzie also worked as a pool cleaner in Orange County, and he hired several of the alleged victims as helpers, Brown said. In many of the cases, while on a job with one of the boys, he would show the youth a “note” he said was left on his car from an artist offering to pay the children to pose nude for a sculpture, Brown alleged.
When he got some of the boys alone, he rubbed them down with baby oil to get them aroused for the photos, the prosecutor alleged.
When one of the boys was working as an assistant on a pool-cleaning job and kicked a container full of chlorine, McKenzie “washed (the victim) down,” then told the youth he had received a letter from a sculptor who said the boy “had a really good body for sculpture,” Brown alleged.
“He convinced (the victim) this wasn’t weird, it was for art,” she said.
The victim is expected to testify that the defendant “tried to make (the boy’s) privates bigger for the picture,” Brown said.
The alleged victims were all younger than 14, and the incidents happened between March 1995 through January 2012, Brown said. The prosecutor alleged that when one boy refused the defendant’s advances, McKenzie said, “Are you ashamed of the body God gave you?”
The defendant is accused of paying the boys about $50 to pose in the nude for photos, according to Brown, who said investigators found about 350 images on McKenzie’s computer of children engaging in sex acts with adults and other children.
McKenzie’s attorney said his client’s interest in the Bible took root when he was a young child and his grandmother would read scripture to him.
Defense attorney Darren Thompson said the defendant is “in shock at these allegations.”
“Do what you promised to do — listen to all of the evidence in this case,” he said. “Give Mr. McKenzie the full benefit of the presumption of innocence.”
McKenzie is charged with 15 counts of lewd acts on a child younger than 14, four counts of using a minor for sex acts, two counts of distributing pornography to a minor, and one count each of attempted lewd acts on a child under 14, attempting to use a minor for sex acts, and possession of child pornography — all felonies.
Prosecutors also filed sentence-enhancing allegations of substantial sexual conduct with a child and committing lewd acts on a child younger than 14 and against more than one victim.
McKenzie could face up to 234 years to life in prison if convicted as charged.
— City News Service