The latest suit, filed Thursday, alleges that the church did not sufficiently supervise Robert Sobczak, now 20, a volunteer who pleaded guilty in December to aggravated criminal sexual abuse of an 8-year-old boy. Sobczak was sentenced to two years of probation and has registered with the state as a child sex offender living in Niles.
In that case, prosecutors said, the boy was a participant in a church program for children with special needs when Sobczak took the boy into a secluded area and sexually abused him on Feb. 17, 2013.
The boy immediately told his mother and police were contacted, which prompted a broader investigation of whether Sobczak molested any other children, said attorney Kevin Golden, who is representing the boy’s family in a civil lawsuit against Sobczak and the large evangelical church in South Barrington.
Children in the so-called Special Friends program are supposed to be under the supervision of two adults at all times, church spokeswoman Susan DeLay said, but Sobczak violated that policy, which she said he later admitted. Since then, DeLay said, officials have retrained staff on following the rules and have added more surveillance cameras for greater security.
In a separate lawsuit filed in November, an anonymous couple sued the church and Sobczak on behalf of their son, who had also been enrolled in the Special Friends program. The suit claims that Sobczak repeatedly molested the boy over a period of about a year, beginning when the boy was 9 and ending in December 2012, when church officials told the boy’s mother that Sobczak would no longer be working as the boy’s personal aide.
The civil lawsuit claims that while the parents attended church services, Sobczak began “grooming” the boy, leading to inappropriate sexual contact while church staff left Sobczak alone with the boy.
After Sobczak was indicted in May 2013 for molesting the 8-year-old boy — nearly three months after the act occurred — the church held a meeting to inform other parents about the allegations. After that meeting, Willow Creek officials alerted the other boy’s parents that their son was a possible victim, their suit states.
According to the suit, investigations by police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services “substantially confirmed” the allegations of a second victim, but no charges have been filed in the case, purportedly because of difficulty confirming that Sobczak had been alone with the boy.