A Newport Beach pool cleaner used his job and positions at two churches to gain the trust of boys he later molested and used in child pornography, according to testimony from police and an alleged victim.
After more than five hours of testimony Thursday, an Orange County Superior Court Judge ruled that Christopher McKenzie, 50, must stand trial on 24 felony counts related to the sexual abuse of seven boys. McKenzie has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say his victims included two relatives he allegedly raped or molested more than 100 times between 1996 and 2002.
McKenzie faced one of his alleged victims in court Thursday. The man, now 19, stared down or directly at attorneys asking him questions as he recounted graphic details of abuse that he said happened when he was 8 to 13 years old.
The man said he lived in the same Newport Beach apartment building as McKenzie in 2005, and the pool cleaner offered to pay him if he would dive into pools and help change the bulbs in underwater lights.
After finishing work at the pools, the man said McKenzie would demand that he shower off chemicals from the water, and that McKenzie would assist.
"He cleaned my whole body with his hands," the man testified. He described the defendant massaging him with soap and lingering on his genitals.
"He said that if I would tell anyone, my parents specifically, something bad would happen," the man continued.
He estimated that this happened around 15 times at pools in and around Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and Laguna Beach.
The man then described an incident when McKenzie brought him home after a job and offered him $300 to strip naked for photographs.
He said McKenzie told him the money was from a woman who had seen his young helper and wanted to make a sculpture of him, but she needed nude photos as a reference.
"He put oil on my body and had a blow-up mattress kind of thing and took pictures of me posing naked," the alleged victim said.
After a 20-minute session, McKenzie allegedly offered extra cash if the two could watch pornography together.
Under cross-examination, McKenzie's lawyer pointed out the witness originally told detectives he'd been molested "like 40 times."
Deputy Public Defender Darren Thompson pressed for specifics, asking for times, dates and whether the molestation alleged happened 15, 40 or 100 times.
"It happened numerous times," the witness said, raising his normally hushed tone. "I'm going to be honest. I've tried to forget this [expletive] for a long time."
McKenzie did not look up during the testimony. He focused on the pad in front of him, taking notes with a pencil, something he did throughout the hearing.
Two rows behind him, McKenzie's mother, the only spectator in the courtroom, scribbled on her own pad.
McKenzie used the sculpture story to attempt to lure three more boys between 8 and 13 years old into participating in nude photo shoots, according to detectives from the Newport Beach Police Department.
These boys were from churches where McKenzie volunteered in Sunday school classes, police said.
McKenzie met three boys at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, where he volunteered with kids from 2007 until he was arrested in 2011.
He allegedly convinced each of them to pose nude, covered in oil, in exchange for money, according to evidence against him.
The sessions sometimes led to molestation, Sgt. Peter Carpentieri said.
Before Rock Harbor, McKenzie attended Christ Church by the Sea in Newport Beach until 2007, and police said he tried the same scheme on a boy he met in Sunday school there.
That boy refused to participate.
Newport Beach police said they never found any female sculptor looking for nude photos of young boys.
McKenzie's seventh victim was also from Rock Harbor Church, according to testimony from Newport Beach police Sgt. Helen Penny Freeman.
After seeing McKenzie's arrest in the news in 2012, a mother came in with her son, who told police McKenzie molested him when he was 11 years old, Freeman said.
In 2010, McKenzie and the boy were watching a movie in the pool cleaner's apartment when he allegedly dared the boy to take off his clothes before massaging him down with oil for up to an hour while asking if he liked to be touched.
McKenzie has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, but is scheduled for a new arraignment next month before his trial starts.
He is being held on $3 million bail.