Jonathan Ryan Ensey, 37, was sentenced to four years for Indecency with a Child and eight years for Online Solicitation of a Minor after a two-day bench trial that ended on March 23, in the 221st District Court of Judge John Delaney.
In the summer of 2019, Ensey, the worship leader of Living Way Church in Conroe, began sending explicit sexual messages to an underage teenage church member. The two used Instagram to communicate. Prior to these messages, Ensey had taken a particular interest in the girl, frequently engaging her in conversation, touching her, and complimenting her appearance. He also befriended her parents. Meanwhile, the messages became more and more sexual over time, unknown to the parents. Ensey began to ask the child repeatedly for sex in very explicit terms. He also made requests for explicit videos of the child, which she did not send.
Ensey, however, sent naked pictures of himself to the child and, on one occasion, sent a picture of himself at the pulpit of Living Way Church and referred to oral sex.
Eventually, Ensey persuaded the victim to meet him in the parking lot of a local coffee shop with the intent of engaging in sexual contact with her. The victim got into Ensey’s car. He put his hands down the back of her pants and grabbed her buttocks. He then put his hand up her shirt and contacted her breast.
Two days later, the girl’s mother found some of the messages Ensey sent to the child. The girl’s parents first went to their pastor, the Defendant’s father, Pastor Randy Ensey. When Pastor Randy Ensey took no substantive action, they reported the messages to the Texas Rangers. Ranger Eric Lopez investigated the case. During his investigation, Ranger Lopez obtained search warrants for content held by Instagram and received thousands of messages between Ensey and the child, spanning five weeks. The messages painted a vivid picture of the weeks-long barrage of sexual messages and images that Ensey directed at the victim. The messages also documented the crimes committed by Ensey.
At trial, Dr. Danielle Madera, an expert in the dynamics of child sexual abuse, testified that the messages and Ensey’s other conduct showed a “textbook case” of grooming for the purpose of sexually abusing the child. She specifically cited the Defendant’s use of his position of power and the influence of religion to accomplish the sexual abuse.
Judge Delaney quickly found Ensey guilty in both cases.
Throughout the trial, members of the Living Way congregation packed the courtroom in an apparent show of support for the Defendant. Ensey’s father, Pastor Randy Ensey, testified at sentencing and asked for leniency. He refused to agree that the victim was in no way at fault for her own abuse. Prosecutors showed that Pastor Ensey had approached one of his congregants, the victim’s relative, seeking to pressure the victim to “have mercy” on her abuser. Pastor Ensey also met with the child’s current pastor and asked him to intervene in a similar manner.
When pronouncing sentence, Judge Delaney complimented the victim on her poise when testifying and said he could tell that she was a good person. He described the Defendant’s conduct as “heartbreaking.” Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 15 years on each count and moved for the sentences to be served consecutively. Judge Delaney imposed sentences of four years on the Indecency with a Child and eight years for the Online Solicitation of a Minor, the sentences to be served concurrently with one another.
The Texas Rangers investigated this case with the assistance of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Greater Houston Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory. Assistant District Attorneys Chris Seufert and Katherine Wiethorn prosecuted the case.
“This Defendant used the child’s faith to victimize her. He took advantage of this child’s religious upbringing and twisted the profane with the divine to bend her to his lustful purpose. A church is supposed to be a safe place. It’s not supposed to be a place where predators target your children,” said Assistant District Attorney Chris Seufert.
Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon added, “It breaks my heart to hear the victim of these despicable crimes blamed for her abuse. The Defendant’s father, a man who is supposed to be a leader in this community, would not say it, but I will: none of this is the victim’s fault in any way, shape, or form. The only person responsible for these evil acts is Jonathan Ensey, and shame on anyone who says differently.”