Waymon Ivery, 66, is reliving a nightmare that happened more than two decades ago. Sitting in the KOAA studio conference room, he admitted his regret.
“I had no idea -- no clue as to the effect that it would have," Ivery said, referring to the pain he inflicted upon his 9-year-old stepdaughter that he was convicted of molesting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1992.
Fourteen years later, Ivery's conviction has gained local attention among citizens of Colorado Springs. A local group of Jehovah's Witnesses, knowing his past, allowed Ivery to go door-to-door on behalf of the group.
His case recently reentered the public eye after a man named Roman Vargas approached Ivery with a video camera. He surprised him with a question about a crime for which he served nearly a year in prison, after being sentenced to 10 years.
Just hours after the video began to make the rounds on YouTube, Ivery was reliving what he thought was ancient history.
Commenters on social media websites began to make their opinions public. One person wrote: “This cult's days are numbered." Another wrote “JW’s and child protection issues just don't seem to mix well. What is the matter with them?"
The public's concerns prompted News 5 Investigates to make several calls and emails to the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, located in New York. All went unanswered. News 5 also contacted elders within the group locally, who also never responded with more information. The next step was to reach out directly to the people who go door-to-door.
We found them knocking on the doors of Lazy Lane Circle in northeast Colorado Springs. They were not too happy to see us, and told us that we should follow the instructions on their website. They slammed their mini van’s door on our cameras.
We decided to speak to a resident of the street who had been approached by two women affiliated with the group just moments before.
”Do I think such a person would drag off a minor member of my family?" local resident and lawyer Peter Conroy said. "I think it's highly unlikely, but it's always possible.” However, Conroy later said he thinks Ivery deserves a second chance at life at some point, if he is making the effort to turn his life around.
Ivery served time behind bars and by all accounts has led a law abiding life ever since. But local residents are concerned that Jehovah's Witnesses allow Ivery to approach strangers' homes, while he has been asked to keep his distance when it comes to the church. Church procedure says Ivery is not allowed to hold a position of leadership in his own church, such as minister to children or Elder.
Why would the congregation allow such a policy within the church, but also allow Ivery to freely walk through strangers' neighborhoods on behalf of their group? Many comments on Vargas' Youtube video said the policy is hypocritical.
News 5 Investigates visited Ivery's home in the Springs to request an interview. He initially declined, but two days later, he agreed to come to the KOAA Studios to share his story.
He began the interview by saying he was doing this because he “felt like dirt,” and that his talking to us may help others abstain from acting on their urges. Those urges, he said, were brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the military.
But after serving his time for the crime, and after seeing an episode on the Oprah Winfrey Show about child molestation, ”A light went off in my head,” Ivery said, and he now takes full responsibility. "What I did was extremely wrong."
When News 5 asked Ivery why he thought Jehovah's Witnesses would allow him to go door-to-door with full knowledge of his past, he said, “They allow this because they have a safety net in place. I have not gone door to door by myself. It's a policy of the witnesses."
The Jehovah’s Witnesses policy says that witnesses may never approach a home without at least one other person. But our interview with Ivery has raised more questions. Who could be knocking on your door next? Could it be someone with a questionable past?
"Some people that have been committed of crimes that I committed have more restrictions on them than I do," Ivery said.