Clutching a handwritten apology, a former Fairfield pastor asked for forgiveness in front of a packed courtroom just before being sentenced to 18 years in state prison for the molestation of children at his parish.

Robert E. Ruark, 65, of Suisun City, a former reverend at St. Timothy Orthodox Church, received the sentence in Solano County Superior Court after pleading guilty in January to 19 felony counts related to committing lewd acts on children. The molestation allegations spanned as far back as 1994.

Known by parishioners as "Father Silas," Ruark was arrested in June by Fairfield police and charged by Solano County prosecutors with more than 30 counts of committing lewd acts on children as young as 13 and, in some instances, photographing them while naked, according to police. The victims told detectives the majority of the molestations took place both at the church on Central Way in Cordelia when they were left alone with Ruark and at his home, according to Fairfield Lt. Greg Hurlbut.

"I am deeply and profoundly sorry for my actions. We were a family," Ruark said.

For more on the story, see the Vacaville Reporter at www.thereporter.com/ci_22770282