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Saturday, March 23 , 2019, 9:07 pm | A Few Clouds 58º


Second Lawsuit Names Former Santa Maria Pastors, Church for Life

Three more women are seeking monetary and punitive damages amid sexual assault and other allegations against Robert and Cindy Litzinger

A second civil lawsuit, naming three more plaintiffs, accuses the former pastor of a Santa Maria church of sexual assault and four other allegations involving “a multiyear pattern of harassment.”

The new lawsuit against Robert Litzinger, formerly of Church for Life, was filed March 7 in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on behalf of three women identified as Jane Does 2, 3 and 4 to protect their privacy.

Also named as defendants are Litzinger’s wife, Cindy Litzinger, and the nondenominational church they founded and led until June 2016.

In addition to sexual assault, the lawsuit alleges sexual battery, sexual harassment, gender violence and negligence, and seeks both monetary and punitive damages.

None of the defendants had filed responses to the new lawsuit as of Thursday, but they denied the similar allegations in the first lawsuit filed last summer.

In the new lawsuit filed by attorney Jordan Porter of Santa Barbara, Robert Litzinger is accused of using his position as lead pastor to “satisfy his sexual fetishes.”

“A common attribute among plaintiffs is they were isolated from their fathers, either emotionally through absence or by distance,” the lawsuit states. “Robert presented himself as a literal father figure to each of them, was overly affectionate, excused his conduct as set forth herein as the normal way fathers treat their daughters, and explained that plaintiffs’ unease was the result of their lack of experience and/or emotional distance in their earlier family relationship.”

Many of the incidents cited in the second lawsuit sound familiar to allegations made by another woman, Jane Doe 1, in a lawsuit filed last summer. 

Litzinger’s attorney, Paul Greco, denied the allegations and said his client would continue to pursue the legal process to present his case.

In a response to the first complaint, Litzinger’s attorney cited multiple defenses, including bad faith and consent.

In the new case, Jane Doe 2, a parishioner who lived with the Litzingers for a time, recalled him suggesting they have “dad snuggles” and “dad times.” Later, when the woman became pregnant, he asked her to send pregnancy pictures to them.

The pastor also showed up at her house when her husband was away to “pray over” her pregnant stomach.

“Without Jane Doe 2’s consent, Robert lifted her shirt and touched her stomach, invoking a stress response in Jane Doe 2. After Robert left, Jane Doe 2 became panicked, emotional, while trying to make sense of what had happened,” the lawsuit states.

Shortly before the woman gave birth, Litzinger told Jane Doe 2 he would “spoon” his wife to feel the baby moving and asked the pregnant woman to allow his wife to do the same thing to “share a maternal feeling.”

But Robert Litzinger laid down behind the pregnant women, the lawsuit claims.

“Both Robert and Cindy started touching Jane Doe 2’s body without her consent, culminating with Robert putting his hand under Jane Doe 2’s waistband purportedly to find the baby’s head,” the lawsuit said.

He also sent nude pictures of him and his wife to the woman and showed up at her home to pray over her after Jane Doe 2 developed a breast infection.

“Jane Doe 2 agreed, but was shocked when Robert ‘prayed over’ her by placing his hands on her breasts,” the lawsuit states. “Jane Doe 2 began crying uncontrollably, overcome with shock and disbelief, but Robert persisted.”

Another plaintiff, Jane Doe 3, a church intern who lived with the couple, said Litzinger gave her “dad rubs” that escalated.

After he demanded that the 19-year-old break up with her boyfriend, Litzinger’s behavior became more explicit, talking about masturbation and insisting on “mom and dad snuggles.” She recalled waking up to find him taking pictures while she slept at their house.

Jane Doe 4 also attended the church and immediately caught the attention of the Litzingers, who invited her to lunch and then naps for “mom and dad snuggles” and conducted explicit conversations.

Offended and afraid by the conduct, the woman reported the incidents to church elders, who removed the couple from their jobs, the lawsuit claims. 

Jane Doe 2 said the church’s investigation into the allegations resulted in “victim shaming and bullying” for their “sins and roles in Robert’s and Cindy’s actions.”

Those who complained about the misbehavior were deemed by church representatives as being “unsafe,” “unteachable and “untrustworthy,” the lawsuit states.

Around the same time Litzinger left the church leader role, he also resigned from his appointed position as a Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Commission member.

On a website, he touts himself as a “marketing professional and community volunteer” and doesn’t mention his previous affiliation with Church for Life.

A case management conference for the second lawsuit is planned for July 9 before Judge James Rigali, while attorneys are scheduled to meet on the first lawsuit in May before Judge Timothy Staffel.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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