PHOENIX — A former school teacher arrested last year for the alleged assault of two Phoenix junior high students will not be criminally charged, 12News has learned.
Glendon Templeton, 62, previously a bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), was accused of groping the teen girls when he was their volleyball coach at Canyon Springs STEM Academy in Phoenix.
The allegations are the latest in a history of allegations against Templeton dating back to the early 1980s, the 12News I-Team has learned. Interviews and court records reveal allegations ranging from molestation, unwanted touching to sexual assault made by five girls and seven women while Templeton was in a role as either a babysitter, LDS bishop or teacher.
“Why has he not been prosecuted? It’s a pattern that’s happened again and again. It should not have happened this many times over this many years,” said “Ashley”, a woman who requests her identity not be revealed because she alleges she is a victim of Templeton.
In multiple phone conversations, Templeton tells 12News he has never committed a crime and he declined to be interviewed on the record for this story. Although Phoenix Police have received three separate complaints about him dating back to 1994, he has never been charged with a crime.
A civil deposition interview and police investigative records show when interviewed, Templeton has consistently denied accusations made against him.
“I would hope law enforcement would stop and take a second look, a harder look. Look at his patterns. Look at what he has been doing for 40-plus years,” said Liane Daniels, a niece of Templeton who also alleges he molested her on more than one occasion when she was a child.
Allegations while Templeton was a teacher and coach
In October 2021, two 13-year-old girls accused Templeton of groping them while he was their volleyball coach at Canyon Springs STEM Academy, a K-8 public school in Phoenix. According to the Phoenix Police probable cause statement, the girls alleged Templeton:
- Routinely grabbed their butts during volleyball practice while instructing them
- Touched and grabbed one of the girl’s butts while they were isolated in a storage closet
- Grabbed one girl by the back of the neck and pushed it down while instructing her
- Made inappropriate comments to the girls such as discussing boys they were going to make out with on the weekend
Several witnesses provided corroborating statements, according to the police statement. Teachers at the school also alleged Templeton “grabbed them at their waists and their arms without their permission,” the report states.
Police arrested Templeton on suspicion of two counts of aggravated assault involving the two girls and cited “a pattern of behavior of inappropriately touching women he is responsible for and worked around,” the statement shows.
During an interview with police, Templeton denied “making physical contact with any of the victims’ butts,” according to the statement.
“The defendant stated he made comments that could have been perceived as inappropriate now but did not intend for them to be during the time,” the report states.
Police forwarded the case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) for prosecution. The MCAO returned the case to the police, telling 12News in a statement “the facts did not establish the elements of a felony offense.”
Phoenix Police then submitted the case to the City of Phoenix Prosecutor’s Office to be considered for misdemeanor charges. The city declined to pursue charges in May.
“After a thorough review of all available evidence, the City Prosecutor’s Office declined to file a complaint as there was insufficient evidence for a misdemeanor criminal charge,” said Ashley Patton, Deputy Communications Director at the City of Phoenix.
Allegations while Templeton was an LDS bishop
Templeton served as the bishop of a West Phoenix LDS congregation from 2014 to 2019, according to church officials. Congregations are known as “wards.” Templeton was the bishop of the Maryvale Ward. Bishops are unpaid clergy members.
“He’s very charming, outgoing, funny, and likes to be the center of attention,” said “Ashley.”
Five women in his ward told the church that Templeton touched them inappropriately or assaulted them dating back to 2012, according to 2019 police incident reports.
The accusations came to light when Templeton’s superior, known as the Stake President, was investigating inconsistencies in church welfare expenditures, according to police.
Phoenix Stake President Steven Johnston documented allegations by five women who accused Templeton of unwanted touching and sexual assault. Leaders in the Phoenix Stake held a disciplinary court for Templeton and ex-communicated him in 2019.
“Mr. Templeton was promptly confronted by Church leaders about his behavior and action was taken, resulting in his loss of membership in the Church,” said Sam Penrod, Media Relations Manager for the LDS Church, in a written statement to 12 News.
The LDS Church notified police
The Church declined an interview with 12News. Penrod also states in writing the church provided “multiple reports” to law enforcement in the summer of 2019 about the allegations against Templeton.
According to Phoenix police records, attorney Joseph Osmond of the Salt Lake City-based law firm Kirton McConkie, which represents the church worldwide, contacted Phoenix police by phone in July 2019 to provide information about the five women with claims against Templeton.
“Mr. Osmond was calling to provide information about several sexually related incidents involving a former bishop, where he coerced and/or forced at least five women who were members of his congregation to engage in some type of sexual activity,” wrote Sgt. Bryant Rockwood of Phoenix police in the incident report.
Phoenix police sent letters to the five women to launch an investigation. Two of them responded by phone.
One spoke with an investigator and alleged Templeton “asked her out, would touch her leg or hug her too long” when they were alone. The other said Templeton touched her underneath her clothes without her consent on two occasions; once while they were sitting in a van on a church-sanctioned trip and another time while they were in the bishop’s office together.
Both women declined to participate in prosecution, according to a police member. Phoenix police sent letters to the three other alleged victims but never received a response, according to their records.
The department closed the case regarding the five women in 2019.
“It’s very common for an allegation to be made by a female victim who then changes their mind and then they don’t move forward. That may due to fear, due to embarrassment, it can be due to fear of not just the charges, but maybe they exaggerated,” said Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney David Cantor, who handles sex crimes cases.
According to Penrod of the LDS Church, church leaders encouraged the five women to “report the allegations to police, cooperate with the investigation and pursue charges.”
Five girls and women accuse Templeton of misconduct between 1980-1989
According to civil deposition interviews obtained by 12 News stemming from a 1997 lawsuit, five women alleged Templeton groped, sexually assaulted, or molested them, including when three of them were minors, between 1980 and 1989.
- The plaintiff in the civil case, Templeton’s niece, alleged when she was around ten years old in 1989 he molested her several times while babysitting her. 12News is not naming the plaintiff because she is an alleged child sex abuse victim. She said Templeton gave her massages and used a vibrator on her in sexual ways and threatened to kill her parents with a baseball bat if she ever told anyone, according to the lawsuit. Her parents learned about the alleged abuse and filed a police report in 1994, according to Phoenix Police. 12 News requested the report in August and is waiting for its release. Templeton denied the allegations to police and said his niece was lying, according to a deposition interview. Police declined to submit the case for prosecution. When asked about the allegations during the 1997 deposition interview, Templeton and his then-wife denied the allegations and they questioned the niece’s physical and emotional health. During the deposition, Templeton said he owned a vibrator. He said he “could not recall” if he used a vibrator on his niece’s legs or back, but he denied using it on other areas of her body. Templeton’s wife suggested a history of dysfunction and abuse in the family was the reason for false allegations against Templeton.
- Another niece, Liane Daniels, claimed Templeton abused her in the early 1980s when she was around six to seven years old, according to the 1997 deposition records and an interview with Daniels, who is now 49 years old and lives outside Arizona. Daniels was one of two alleged victims approved by the judge to testify in the civil suit. “Any time he had an opportunity it would be rubbing my vagina, fondling me and then touching himself," Daniels said during a recent interview with 12News. “I can still remember that room. I can still remember so many details. Those don’t go away.”
Daniels tells 12 News the alleged abuse caused her to display behavioral problems throughout her adolescence and it affected “every single relationship” she’s ever had since. During the 1997 deposition, Templeton admitted he got into the shower around 1980 or 1981 while Daniels, then 6 or 7 years old, was getting out of the shower. But Templeton denied ever molesting Daniels or touching her inappropriately. Templeton’s wife said during her deposition she was always with Templeton and Daniels, and never saw Templeton do anything wrong. 12News made multiple attempts to speak with Templeton’s ex-wife but was unable to reach her.
- A family friend was also approved by the judge to testify of alleged abuse against her. She accused Templeton of putting his hand in her underwear when she was around 8 years old “in the early 80s”, according to court deposition interviews. Templeton and his wife were babysitting several children at the time, records state. Templeton said in the 1997 deposition “it didn’t happen” and may have been a misunderstanding. “We all rough-housed a lot. We played together. Everybody rough-housed,” Templeton said.
- Templeton was questioned during the deposition about two other women who made accusations against him. An adult, non-biological relative alleged Templeton touched her breasts while giving her a backrub and turned conversations to sex when speaking with her when they were alone. Templeton acknowledged he had visited her at her home at times but he denied he purposely touched her breasts.
- According to the deposition transcript, Templeton allegedly fostered a bond around 1987 with an 18-year-old family friend by offering to be her private “counselor” while she was staying at his house because she had troubles at home. Over time, Templeton gained the woman’s trust and got into bed with her one night and touched her breast under her shirt against her will, the plaintiff’s attorney alleged in the deposition. The woman and her fiancé later confronted Templeton about his behavior. They did not report the incident to the police, according to the deposition transcript. Templeton denied these claims too.
An imbalance of power
“Ashley”, who grew up in the LDS Church, says she felt “complete disgust” when she learned as an adult that Templeton later became a bishop.
“I felt this pit in my stomach. Why and how?” she said.
Her concern is the amount of time Templeton would have spent with women and children behind closed doors in the Maryvale Ward. She wants parents whose children have had contact with Templeton in the past to have conversations with them about Templeton.
“I think if you know him, ask your family members and loved ones,” Ashley said.
Sgt. Rockwood noted in his 2019 incident report that as a bishop, Templeton would have had occasional private interviews with children. LDS bishops hold one-on-one “worthiness interviews” with adults and children typically beginning at age 12. These interviews may involve questions about the child’s past “sins” and acts of a sexual nature. Bishops also conduct interviews with 8-year-olds before baptism.
In recent years, activists have lobbied the church worldwide to end the practice of one-on-one worthiness interviews.
“By virtue of the calling (of the bishop) that they have, they are regarded as representatives of God to their LDS wards, and that gives them a tremendous amount of power,” said Reverend Katie Langston, a Utah-based pastor and mother. Langston was a participating member of the LDS Church until 2015.
As reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, a former LDS bishop was excommunicated in 2018 after leading a campaign to get the church to end all one-on-one interviews between clergy and youths. That same year the church revised its policy to encourage church leaders to invite a parent or other adult to sit in an adjoining room when holding one-on-one interviews with women and children.
The change included the option for the interviewee to ask a witness to sit in as a witness to the interview, according to the Tribune.
Declining to comment on the allegations
In recent months, 12News has discussed with Templeton the twelve allegations dating back to 1980. Templeton said he’s declining to comment and says he’s committed no crimes.
He confirmed he voluntarily revoked his Arizona teaching license in January of this year.
When asked if he currently has an occupation that places him around children, Templeton said he does not but declined to say where he works.
A history of working and volunteering around children
In the 2019 incident report, Sgt. Rockwood wrote, “Because of his opportunity to have access to juveniles and with the past allegation, I contacted the AZ Department of Child Safety.” DCS had no record of claims against Templeton, Sgt. Rockwood wrote.
According to job resumes and interviews by 12News, Templeton has worked as a teacher throughout the years.
- At Westland K-12 School in Phoenix from 2003-2005
- As a professor at Northland Pioneer College in Holbrook around 2011
- As a teacher at Northridge Preparatory Academy between 2011 and 2012
- As an 8th Grade ELA teacher at Royal Palm Middle School between 2017 and 2020
- He also volunteered for the Boy Scouts of America Grand Canyon Council for more than three decades.
“The allegations against Glendon Gray Templeton are disturbing and opposed to everything for which the Boy Scouts of America stands,” said Andy Price, Scout Executive of Grand Canyon Council, BSA.
Templeton will be placed in a screening database and no longer permitted to volunteer in any capacity, Price said. He tells 12 News the organization never received a complaint about Templeton.
“Don’t hesitate. Go to police”
Daniels, who also grew up in the LDS Church, believes Glendon Templeton’s story reveals a lesson for the LDS community and churches in general. She wants alleged victims of abuse to know they should go straight to law enforcement with their accusations.
“When I told my dad and my stepmom, of course, my dad flipped out,” Daniels said. Her dad reported the accusations to church leaders and the issue was handled internally, Daniels said.
“Glendon was scolded or something along those lines which is absolute bull crap,” Daniels said. “I guess I felt I was not that important. I felt for so many years that it was my fault.”
Templeton’s other niece who alleged molestation had a different experience. She told her bishop in 1994 about the allegations against Templeton and he drove her and her mom to the police department to file a report, according to the 1997 deposition interview. Local church leaders conducted an internal investigation of that claim against Templeton. It’s unknown if he was disciplined by the church. During the deposition interview, Templeton said he was a Sunday School Teacher in his local ward.
By the time Templeton was elevated to the position of bishop of the Maryvale Ward in 2014, he was living in another part of the city where it’s possible his church leaders there were unaware of the previous allegations against him.
What did the witnesses tell police?
The details of witness statements are crucial in determining whether prosecutors have grounds to file charges, said Cantor. Successful prosecutions usually require either a confession, forensic evidence or a first-hand witness to the alleged offense, he said.
According to the Phoenix Police probable cause statement, when Templeton was arrested, “several witnesses were interviewed and provided corroborating statements consistent with the victims’ disclosure of being touched/grabbed by the defendant during volleyball practice.”
However, Cantor says it’s possible the witness testimony is not strong enough and that is why the county attorney declined to take the case.
“There’s no specifics, whether it was ‘she told me later on at school she was upset that this had happened’ or ‘I saw them both go into a closet or back into a room together.’ So I don’t know what those witnesses were,” Cantor said.
12News has requested witness interviews conducted by police to analyze their content.
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