A church elder has been charged with hiding unauthorized cameras in a Bethalto church and secretly recording a changing area — and an assistant pastor has been charged with helping to cover it up.
David L. Von Bergen, 59, of Alton has been charged with felony unauthorized recording, as well as other charges. Von Bergen is an elder of Zion Lutheran Church, where the hidden cameras were found on Dec. 24. The cameras were hidden in several locations throughout the church, including the changing area in the sacristy, and were uncovered and investigated by Bethalto Police during Christmas Eve services.
Also charged is Rev. Kale Hanson, 36, of Bethalto, an assistant pastor with Zion Lutheran, who is accused of helping Von Bergen hide evidence.
Earlier on Dec. 24, upon learning that the cameras had been discovered, police said Von Bergen attempted to remove them and was confronted by Hanson. Investigators allege that Hanson agreed to destroy the memory cards of the cameras and allowed Von Bergen to leave with the cameras.
Von Bergen was initially arrested by Bethalto Police, interviewed and then released on bail on Dec. 26.
The Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office charged both men on Thursday. A statement from the state’s attorney’s office said that the investigation was “difficult” due to the loss of evidence, but that at least one minor was recorded in the changing area of the sacristy.
“It’s appalling to think that an individual would violate the sanctity of such a holy celebration and the dignity of a church community with such a despicable act,” said Tom Gibbons, Madison County State’s Attorney. “Further, to think that someone in a position of authority chose to destroy evidence of the act, regardless of the motivation, is extremely disheartening.”
Gibbons said the other members of Zion Lutheran’s church leadership aided police in the investigation, including assistance in identifying the minor involved. He said the investigation is ongoing, and anyone with additional information should contact the Bethalto Police Department.
Von Bergen is charged with two counts of unauthorized video recording, a Class 3 felony punishable by 2-5 years in prison; obstruction of justice, a Class 4 felony punishable by 1-3 years in prison; and misdemeanor unauthorized video recording, punishable by up to a year in jail.
Hanson has been charged with obstruction of justice.
Neither man is currently in custody. Madison County Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli set Von Bergen’s bail at $250,000 and Hanson’s at $50,000.