SAN JOSE -- Officials at a San Jose church fired a camp counselor on three separate occasions after reports he inappropriately touched young girls, then gave him a positive 2010 recommendation for a job at a Trace Elementary School child care program, where he is suspected of molesting nine girls, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The latest lawsuit in the case of Keith Woodhouse, 28, was filed by the parents of a girl who claims she was molested by Woodhouse while attending a Church on the Hill summer program in 2007. Woodhouse, who is facing criminal charges in the Trace case, worked at the church in its summer camp program at the time.
"Several executives within this church repeatedly had an opportunity to identify obvious signs of a pedophile in their midst, and each time they not only failed to contact the authorities, as the law required, but they unconscionably allowed him to continue having unsupervised access to minors," said Robert Allard, an attorney representing the girl and her family.
Allard is also representing the families of three girls claiming to be molested by Woodhouse at Trace in a separate negligence lawsuit against the child care center and the church.
A woman who answered the phone Thursday at Church on the Hill, located on Sands Drive above Highway 87 in South San Jose, said "we have no comment." The church's attorney, Irene Takahashi, responded by email and said she has not yet seen the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges when the child care program that operates at Trace asked Church on the Hill about Woodhouse, a church official said he was a good, dependable worker with a good attitude. The official said Woodhouse "loves kids" and that she would hire him again.
Woodhouse was arrested in 2011 and charged with 30 felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 stemming from his time as a child-care worker at Trace Child Development Center, which is an independent organization from the school. Woodhouse is still waiting to be tried in the criminal case and is next scheduled to appear in criminal court Monday.
Tuesday's lawsuit details allegations that Woodhouse was fired three times by the church starting in 2004, when he was terminated for misconduct with children. Woodhouse was then rehired to work at the summer camp, resulting in a 2007 swimming pool incident in which he was reportedly seen holding the plaintiff in the lawsuit on his lap and kissing her around her shoulders and neck. A lifeguard reportedly saw Woodhouse then leave the pool with an erection, according to the lawsuit.
Church officials reportedly conducted their own investigation and found no proof that a child had been inappropriately touched. They said Woodhouse was terminated for insubordination because he did not listen to orders from lifeguards to not have kids on his lap anymore when he returned to the pool, according to the lawsuit.
Woodhouse was rehired again in 2009, a stint that lasted three weeks. Elliott Sands, a pastor and top church official named in the lawsuit, told a San Jose police detective in a 2012 interview that Woodhouse's employment ended because "he was seen continuing his problem behavior (allowing girls to sit on the lap) and was asked to leave," according to the lawsuit.
Several of the girls who attended the day care and after-school program at Trace told police that Woodhouse touched them inappropriately, according to a police report. Some of the young girls say they were touched on numerous occasions.
Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him on Twitter @MarkMgomez.