Former church youth leader gets 12 years in DOC for aggravated criminal sexual abuse of two minors

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Isaiah Mikkelson looks at his parents as bailiff John Ervin puts on his handcuffs. — Photo by J. Robert Gough

QUINCY — As he prepared to sentence Isaiah Mikkelson Friday morning, Judge Tad Brenner took a moment to discuss sexual abuse occurring in church settings.

“That any religious institution does not have policies and procedures and education in place to prevent situations like this from happening is absolutely appalling,” Brenner said. “That is a situation which is beyond my jurisdiction and beyond the jurisdiction of a secular court, but it is something that I feel compelled to say in terms of Mr. Mikkelson.”

Brenner then sentenced Mikkelson, 22, a former youth leader at Hope Lutheran Church in Quincy, to 12 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He pled guilty to two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse with a person under the age of 18 on Sept. 26.

“What I see is grooming of these two young ladies went on for a very long period of time,” Brenner said. “There were multiple incidents of the position being taken advantage of, and granted, that is an element of the offense to which you have pled guilty, but the position was huge.

“There is a statutory factor in aggravation as to whether a crime was committed in a church, and it appears as though that was the case. … We are dealing with children who were victimized. They were inappropriately touched. They were encouraged to make videos and take photographs of themselves. They will be traumatized forever.”

Mikkelson read a statement, apologizing for his actions.

“I will do everything I can be a faithful member of the church again,” Mikkelson said. “I’m committed to making changes in my life to ensure that I never make the same mistake again. I’m currently attending and will continue to attend counseling for my own mental health. I’m attending a weekly adult Bible study, as well as a weekly men’s group where I have a wonderful support group that encourages me. It’s helping me walk through life.

“Moving forward, I plan on getting a full-time job and being a productive member of society again in the area of landscaping, warehouse work and gardening, which I all enjoy very much. I love to volunteer at various events and enjoy supporting my community.”

Brenner suggested he not enter the ministry in the future.

“Mr. Mikkelson, you should never have even considered ministry,” the judge bluntly said. “I don’t know if anyone has told you that you should not. You are a convicted sex offender. Nobody wants you near their child, regardless of the changes you make. That needs to be out of your head. Permanently. I’m not telling you to lose faith, but I’m telling you that you are not called to ministry. You need to hear that.”

Mikkelson, 3340 Wynstone Drive, could have received up to 14 years for the offenses following a plea deal with the Adams County State’s Attorney’s office. His two six-year sentences will run consecutively.

Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Keck asked for the full 14 years on behalf the two victims, who were 14 and 15 years old.

“A church should be a refuge. It should be a place of trust,” Keck said. “And the people in the church, those people are supposed to be the people who show us, they show those teenage girls, God’s love and understanding. They’re supposed to be the people who are God’s representatives on this earth and that we’re supposed to be able to trust them, to show God to those people to those young girls. But when you go to them in your moments of weakness and vulnerability to trust them, and those representatives abused that trust, they take advantage of your vulnerability for their own disgusting purposes. What is the court system to do?

“I’m asking you that Mr. Mikkelson receive the full 14-year sentence. … When people take advantage of teenage girls who are in their youth group, they need to be punished and the public needs to be protected. We need to make sure that other people who think it’s a good idea to be in those positions of power that they know what’s going to happen if they abuse that power.”

Keck also called upon Quincy Police Department Det. Taylor Dralle to read one of the victim impact statements.

“I just want to say you have put me through so much stress and anxiety throughout this case,” Dralle read from the letter. “We should have never had to go through that, but you got us to trust you and you’ve manipulated our trust to use against use it against us.

“I just hope they find out what you did while you’re in prison. Just know I will never forgive you for what you did. I hope nobody will ever be able to see you the same after this. Anyway, thank you for my anxiety, depression and ability to not being able to trust anyone fully ever again.”

The victim’s mother also gave a statement, saying Mikkelson was supposed to be “praying with” these young girls but instead he chose to “prey upon” them.

In exchange for the plea, two other counts of aggravated sexual abuse with a person under the age of 18, one count of criminal sexual assault and two counts of child pornography (soliciting a person under the age of 18 to appear in a visual production involving an act of masturbation) were dismissed.

An investigation began in January after law enforcement agencies were contacted by a parent of a juvenile who had disclosed possible sexual abuse by Mikkelson. During the investigation, multiple juveniles were interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center about alleged abuse. An arrest warrant was issued Feb. 24 for Mikkelson, and he was arrested March 9.

Keck had provided evidence of Mikkelson touching the vaginas of two girls under the age of 18 during September’s plea hearing.

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