EDINBURG - A sexual relationship between Trinity Worship Center's former music minister and a 14-year-old church member still haunts the boy's family every day, his father testified Wednesday.
Four years after Robert Dale Franklin, 42, admitted to sleeping with the teen on numerous occasions, the boy continues to struggle with health problems; his mother remains an emotional wreck; and his family is unsure whether they can ever trust a church again.
"It's like a broken plate," the father said. "If you break it, you can glue it back together, but you'll be missing some pieces and you can still see all the cracks."
The man's testimony marked the third day of a civil trial that has pitted his family against the Pharr church. Family members allege Trinity leaders knew about Franklin's past history of abusing teen boys but failed to warn its congregation.
It is The Monitor's policy not to identify the victims of sexual abuse or their family members.
In the family's lawsuit, it claims the church's former pastor, Robert Kane, had been warned about Franklin's past but still did not conduct a thorough background check that would have uncovered at least three other incidents of sexual abuse.
"I gave my son to the devil not knowing what they knew," the teen's mother said during halting testimony that was often interrupted by her sobs.
"If they had warned us we never would have left (our son) with them."
Kane later told the jury, though, he had only received vague warnings of Franklin's history with boys from other ministers in the Assemblies of God community. He never knew specific details, he said in video-taped testimony played for the jury.
Kane left shortly before the local allegations against Franklin emerged in 2004 and now works in Mississippi.
According to court documents, Franklin had admitted to abusing another teenager while working as a church volunteer in Glendive, Mont. He has also been accused of sexual relationships with teens in Pensacola, Fla., and Romania.
No criminal charges were ever filed in those cases.
Before coming to Trinity, however, Franklin told friends and relatives that God had inspired him to put those incidents behind him, Pastor John Kilpatrick said in video-taped testimony played Wednesday. The Florida-based minister worked with Franklin in the 1990s.
In 1999, Kilpatrick warned Kane not to touch Franklin "with a 10-foot pole," he said.
"As a minister, you have to be careful to question someone's testimony about what the Lord did in their lives," Kilpatrick said. "They say that something has changed, but sometimes you just don't see it."
Franklin is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence for his involvement with the Trinity teen. The victim's family is asking for unspecified damages from the church to compensate for the pain and suffering his actions inflicted. He is now 18.
Lawyers for both sides are expected to present their closing statements this morning.
A verdict could be reached as soon as this afternoon.
Jeremy Roebuck covers courts and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4437.