A Saco man and former high-ranking officer in the Salvation Army in New York has been accused of sexually assaulting a teenager who lived with him for several years in the 1990s.

Nicole Sprout, who now lives on Long Island in New York, held a news conference last week in front of the Salvation Army headquarters in Manhattan to levy accusations against Gary Crowell.

According to coverage from two local television stations, Sprout said Crowell and his wife, Carol Beth Crowell, took her into their home at age 11 after her mother, who lived with mental illness, could not care for her. Sprout said the abuse started shortly thereafter and progressed to sexual intercourse. It continued until she was 16, often two or three times a week.

Sprout and her attorney, John Manly – who most recently represented the nearly 200 sexual abuse victims of former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar – also provided copies of a Facebook message Crowell sent to Sprout apologizing for what he did.

“I take full responsibility for my actions, and have for a very long time,” he wrote. “I recall, as though it happened yesterday, the night I had to put into words my actions and the first time I had to accept what I had done.”

Crowell wrote that he sought professional counseling and was removed from his ministry. His wife has remained active within the Salvation Army and is the youth director for the branch in Old Orchard Beach.

No one answered the phone at a number listed for the Crowells in Saco. Carol Beth Crowell also did not return a message left at her office in Old Orchard.

In a statement provided to the Press Herald, the Salvation Army apologized to Sprout.

“We deeply regret any injury to Ms. Sprout that may have been caused by any former Salvation Army personnel and we want to assure her and the public that we take very seriously our commitment to maintaining the safety of those we serve,” it read. “We have long had robust policies in place that are designed to promote the safety of those we serve. These policies require that immediate action be taken in the event of any allegation of misconduct, including a thorough investigation of the allegations, termination of Salvation Army personnel where the allegations are supported by reasonable suspicion and compliance with all reporting requirements.”

“We can confirm that Gary Crowell’s officership was terminated when the allegations came to light many years ago.”

Neither Manly nor his media representative responded to multiple messages from a reporter last week, but Sprout, during her news conference, said she doesn’t think Crowell, or the Salvation Army, has been sufficiently held accountable.

She said Crowell admitted in his apology that he disclosed his abuse to officials within the Salvation Army, but they failed to report the incident to authorities as required by law. Crowell was never investigated or charged by authorities.

There is no statute of limitations in New York for first-degree rape, which includes sexual intercourse with a victim who is less than 13 years old. For second- and third-degree rape, the statute is five years.

Sprout, now a mother of three, is considering a civil lawsuit but also is calling on the Salvation Army to make public a list of its officers and employees who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.

Several dioceses within the Catholic Church have made similar lists public in recent years in an effort to rebuild trust.

“If you have names of credibly accused predators, and we know they do, disclose them publicly so people will know. Stop hiding this,” Manly said last Tuesday, according to the local television coverage.

In addition to representing Nassar’s victims, Manly has secured settlements for numerous victims of clergy sex abuse, mostly in California.

The Salvation Army is a Christian church and charitable organization that operates worldwide. It’s primarily known for its shelters and for its humanitarian work. There have been allegations of sexual abuse against Salvation Army officers in the past, although not on the scale of the abuse involving the Catholic Church.

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