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Cops: Somerset County camp directors did not report alleged child abuse incident

Paul Peirce
1332250_web1_Jason-and-Mark
WORDFM.com
Jason M. Witt, 37, (left) and Mark S. Witt, 69, both directors of Somerset County youth mission, TeenQuest. The Witts are accused by state police of not reporting alleged child abuse incident.

Two directors of TeenQuest, a Christian youth retreat and summer camp in Somerset County, were charged Monday with failing to report an incident of alleged child abuse at the facility in March, according to state police.

Mark S. Witt, 69, who founded the youth mission camp in rural Milford Township in 1974, and his son, Jason, 37, are both charged by state police in Somerset with failing to report child abuse after learning about an alleged incident in early May. Both Witts are ordained ministers and directors at the camp.

Trooper Sondra L. Haberl said that, as administrators of the camp, the Witts “are mandated reporters that were informed of the abuse in May and did not make a report on the child’s behalf.”

Criminal complaints were filed before District Judge Sandra Stevanus, but neither man has been arraigned.

The charges are second-degree misdemeanors punishable by a maximum sentence of up to two years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine, if convicted.

Reached at the camp Monday, Mark Witt declined comment. Jason Witt could not be reached for comment.

Neither has an attorney listed in court documents.

According to court documents, the complaint stems from an alleged sexual incident at the camp that occurred between a 16-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl in one of the cabins sometime on March 30 or 31. According to court documents filed by Haberl, a relative of one of the participants notified state police of the incident on June 3, which spurred an investigation.

On June 12, Haberl said she questioned the younger Witt, who said that he only learned of the incident in early May “when Mark Witt told him.”

Haberl reported in court documents that two other male teenagers staying in the cabin reportedly watched the alleged sex act.

“(Jason Witt) admitted that he did not call the police because he did not have the facts. (Jason Witt) assumed that Mark Witt told the 16-year-old that he was not allowed back on the ranch,” Haberl wrote in the complaint.

In a telephone interview, Haberl reported that Mark Witt told her that he spoke with one of the teenage boys who saw the incident “who claimed that something went on between the children in question.”

Haberl said the Witts, “as ordained ministers” and administrative directors at TeenQuest, are required under state law to report alleged child abuse to authorities, but neither did.

State police said Monday the incident remains under investigation.

According to biographies on the TeenQuest website and the WORD-FM radio station, where the men have hosted radio programs, Mark Witt has been in youth ministry all of his adult life. He attended Liberty University, where he taught and married his wife, Deb, in 1974.

Deb Witt also is listed as a camp director.

Jason Witt is a graduate of Word of Life Bible Institute in New York. He has been on Teen Quest’s full-time missionary team since 2003.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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