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Former pastor in F.V. and H.B. pleads not guilty to new counts of child molestation

Former pastor in F.V. and H.B. pleads not guilty to new counts of child molestation
John Rodgers McFarland, 67, of Fullerton pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with minors. McFarland, who was a pastor at Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach churches until 2014, was charged in a similar case in San Diego County in December. (Courtesy of Orange County district attorney's office)

A pastor who formerly led congregations at Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach churches pleaded not guilty Monday to molesting seven children ranging in age from 5 to 15, prosecutors said.

John Rodgers McFarland, 67, of Fullerton was arrested by Fountain Valley police Thursday. He is charged with seven felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under age 14 and four felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor between the ages of 14 and 15, according to Orange County Superior Court documents.

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The offenses allegedly occurred between 2002 and 2017. Authorities did not specify where McFarland may have met the children.

In December, McFarland was charged in San Diego County with two counts of molesting a girl younger than 14 in 2012 and 2013.

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At the time, search warrants were issued for McFarland’s home as well as churches where he worked, police said. Investigators said they found evidence that other victims had been abused during his time as a pastor in Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach.

Most recently, McFarland served as head pastor at Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton.

Voter registration records show McFarland lived in Fountain Valley from 1998 to 2007. He was a pastor at Fountain Valley United Methodist Church from 1988 to 2014 and at Surf City Church in Huntington Beach from 2009 to 2014, police said.

McFarland also was a volunteer police and fire chaplain in Fountain Valley and a youth pastor at churches in Escondido and Calexico from 1978 to 1988, according to the Orangethorpe United Methodist Church website.

McFarland’s son, Ted, was the youth pastor at Fountain Valley United Methodist Church until 2016, according to the church’s website.

Calls and emails to the local churches seeking comment Monday were not immediately returned.

If convicted of the Orange County charges, McFarland could face a maximum sentence of 179 years to life in prison, prosecutors said.

He was booked into Orange County Jail with bail set at $2 million. He is scheduled back in court June 20.

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