Petaluma Boys and Girls Club child endangerment suspect released on bail
Rohnert Park police said Tuesday they had not received word of additional victims a day after arresting a Boys & Girls Clubs of Marin and Petaluma employee on suspicion of posting photos to a child porn site of a 6-year-old girl from the club’s after-school program.
Benjamin Goerke, 22, was released from Sonoma County Jail after posting a $50,000 bond. He had been taken into custody by Rohnert Park police officers Monday on suspicion of child endangerment as he arrived at Cinnabar School on Skillman Lane, where he is employed as the Boys & Girls Club’s program coordinator.
Police say Goerke, who has worked for the Boys & Girls Club since August 2014, posted two pictures of the clothed girl and included her name, address and phone number. The photos were posted to an internet chat room used to share child pornography and arrange child molestations, according to Rohnert Park police.
Boys & Girls Club administrators learned of the arrest as it occurred Monday, said David Jackson, interim CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Marin and Petaluma, and Goerke was placed on administrative leave. Jackson couldn’t say whether the leave was paid, but said “normally” administrative leaves are by company policy.
“We got a call from Cinnabar ... that police were picking him up, and no one knew at the time what he was being picked up for,” Jackson said. “The police got in contact with me maybe 20 minutes after.
“(We are) making certain that the parents and the children know that the programs and services are still running as normal, and we’ve taken every precaution to ensure their safety. That’s our main focus.”
But one parent of a 12-year-old girl who participated in the program under Goerke’s direction contradicted Jackson.
Nichole Rozendaal of Santa Rosa said she has heard nothing from the Boys & Girls Club about the incident. Rozendaal said the only information she’s received was in a letter from Cinnabar School that was sent home with her child Tuesday afternoon.
Rozendaal said she tried calling the Boys & Girls Club and even posted a comment to the club’s Facebook page but has yet to be contacted.
“I’m really disappointed with how this was handled by the Boys & Girls Club,” Rozendaal said. “I think without information from them, I have no idea if my home address is out there and photos of my child are out there.”
Goerke was first hired for an entry-level position in August 2014 as a coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club program at the Cinnabar School. He was promoted to director in January. Rohnert Park police said Goerke worked as a program director at one other school location in town. There are four clubhouses in Petaluma, with three at elementary schools. The nonpornographic pictures and personal identification were spotted on the child porn site during an unrelated U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigation. On March 29, the federal agency contacted Rohnert Park police because Goerke is a city resident. Police began investigating and Monday obtained search and arrest warrants.
Police don’t believe there was any physical contact between the suspect and the girl.
“I would say that we’re stunned,” Jackson said. “We’re shocked and we’re saddened by this. Ben was a tenured employee who had successfully passed all our background requirements and fingerprinting. He was well-liked and well-respected.”
Police Tuesday were starting to look through items seized from Goerke’s Rohnert Park apartment, including his computer, said Rohnert Park police Commander Aaron Johnson.
Police have asked for other potential victims to come forward. As of Tuesday afternoon, no one had come forward, Johnson said.
But Rozendaal said she and other parents likely have no way of knowing if their children were photographed or if their personal information has been posted on the internet.
“I am infuriated that sexual predators could have photos of my child and my home address and they couldn’t bother to let me know,” Rozendaal said in an email to The Press Democrat. “How are we supposed to know if we are victims until they analyze this guy’s computer?”
Rozendaal said she talked to her daughter Tuesday about Goerke, without getting into specifics. She asked her daughter if she had seen Goerke spend a lot of time on his phone or taking pictures.
“She said she didn’t notice anything in particular,” Rozendaal said. “For all we know he could have been taking pictures of the kids from a distance.”
Rozendaal said she hopes police will update parents after finding out what’s on Goerke’s computer.
This is the second recent case involving a Sonoma County Boys & Girls Club employee facing allegations of inappropriate behavior.
Former Sonoma Valley Boys & Girls Club employee Paul “Dwayne” Kilgore, 69, is accused of molesting three boys under the age of 14. In February, a Sonoma County Judge said there was enough evidence for Kilgore to stand trial.
Staff Writer Martin Espinoza contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 7017-521-5205 or email@example.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren. You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707-521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.