NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) - A Newport News school orchestra director is facing sex crime charges after two men alleged they were victims of abuse.
Holly McPherson with the Newport News Police Department said the 19-year-old and 21-year-old victims reported the incidents on Aug. 6 and said they had been abused by John Douglas Lenwell, 44, at Lenwell's home.
The 21-year-old victim told police he was abused by Lenwell several times in 2007 and 2008, when he was 17 years old and a student of Lenwell's at Denbigh High School. McPherson says sometimes one victim can give another the support they need to report abuse.
"It really varies from victim to victim," said McPherson. "Some feel ashamed, and being a male that can be a possibility. He could have been threatened. There is a wide variety of why victims might take a lot longer to come forward."
McPherson said the 19-year-old claimed he was abused by Lenwell between April and August of 2012.
The two victims came forward together. McPherson says they are not related, but do know each other. She could not elaborate on why the victims were at Lenwell's home.
"By releasing that particular information, it would easily identify these two individuals," said McPherson.
Lenwell has been employed in the school system since 1999 and has worked at all the high schools and at least three middle schools, according to a school spokesperson. Parents who wrote to WAVY.com say Lenwell was very popular among students in the school system.
Lenwell most recently taught at Dozier and Passage Middle Schools. He has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
In addition to working in schools, Lenwell also worked as a music director at Christ United Methodist Church in Newport News.
He was arrested Wednesday and charged with two counts of indecent liberties with a child by a person in custodial or supervisory relationship, one count of forcible sodomy and two counts of sexual battery in connection to the incidents.
Lenwell remains incarcerated at the Newport News Jail. He denied WAVY.com's request for an interview Thursday.
In Virginia, there is no statute of limitations for felonies, but there is a one year window for prosecution of misdemeanors. In this case, all of the charges against Lenwell are felonies, with the exception of sexual battery.
Police are asking anyone who believes they or their child may have been victims of Lenwell to call the Newport News Police Department at 757-928-4200 or the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.
"Right now, these are the only two victims we are aware of," said McPherson. "But because of the suspect's position in the school system, we are asking possible victims to come forward."
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