Fort Worth

Accuser testifies in molestation trial of former Cowboy Way Church pastor

Former Cowboy Way pastor Dan Haby is accused of sexual misconduct involving teenage boy.
Former Cowboy Way pastor Dan Haby is accused of sexual misconduct involving teenage boy. Star-Telegram archives

This report includes sexually graphic descriptions.

The first time he was inappropriately touched, it started with a prayer.

One moment, the 31-year-old man recalled for jurors Friday, Dan Haby Jr. was sitting down and praying on the twin mattress he brought into the bedroom for the 15-year-old church member to sleep on.

Then the pastor began “spooning” him and repeatedly rubbing his face and lips up and down the teen’s face and pushing his erection against the boy’s leg.

“I was in shock; I really didn’t understand what was going on,” said the man, now a special education teacher, told jurors. “He told me that he was not a married man and he needed to be able to relieve stress.”

Their time together, the accuser said Haby told him, allowed the pastor to relieve stress “and in doing so he could be a better pastor and more effective minister on Sunday mornings to those in the church.”

The man said that though he was confused, he believed Haby.

“I wanted to be a minister. As he put it, this was my calling by God to allow him to relieve stress. I had to either oppose the God that I loved and disappoint him or allow this to happen,” the man testified.

The accuser is not being identified because he is a victim of sexual misconduct.

He acknowledged the sexual contact with Haby continued into his adulthood, not stopping until 2009 shortly before he decided to leave what had become known as the Cowboy Way Church.

Haby, who resigned from the Cowboy Way Church after the molestation accusations, is on trial in the 432nd District Court, accused of six counts of indecency with a child. He has pleaded not guilty.

‘I was not 17’

The accuser told jurors Haby’s abuse happened whenever the teen spent the night at the house.

“It always started out with spooning and cuddling with me,” the man said. “After about an hour or so, he would finish off touching me, then he would say a prayer and he would go to his own bed and sleep.”

The accuser said he continued to return to the church and hang around Haby, not telling anyone what Haby was doing, because he wanted to be part of the ministry and believed he was fulfilling his calling. He testified he didn’t feel he could tell his mother and stepfather because of fear and not wanting to disappoint them.

The longer the sexual contact went on, the man told jurors, he became more confused about why he was allowing a man to touch him in a sexual way. He had always identified himself as a heterosexual male who had always had girlfriends.

“How do you tell your Christian parents that you’re allowing a man to indulge in homosexual acts?” the man said.

The accuser testified that Haby showered him with gifts — clothes, boots, stereo equipment and a tennis racket — and frequently told him of the millions of dollars he would soon have coming in from a connection. Haby promised to pay for his college education and buy him a vehicle, the man testified.

The man acknowledged that the money became part of the lure in spending time with Haby and keeping the secret.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Mark Daniel repeatedly pointed out to the accuser that he was a grown man when he continued to visit and spend time with Haby, including spending nights and weekends at Haby’s home.

The accuser acknowledged that.

The accuser said that during some of those sleepovers as an adult, Haby put his wife to bed, then come into the accuser’s room and crawl into bed with him and “spoon” him. Another time, he said, Haby invited him to use his walk-in shower, then walked into the bathroom and watched him.

The accuser said he continued to believe he was following his calling by suffering to help Haby.

Daniel also suggested through his questioning of the accuser that he might be mistaken about the dates of the alleged contact and was actually 17 —and therefore not considered a child —when the alleged contact first occurred.

“I was not 17,” the accuser insisted.

‘Father and son’

Earlier in the day, the accuser’s ex-wife testified she was excited about meeting Haby when she and the accuser — her boyfriend at the time — went to Cowboy Way Church one Sunday in 2008.

But the woman said she was “shell-shocked” when upon being introduced to Haby, the lead pastor ignored her and walked away. She said the cold treatment continued for months before he seemed to finally accept her.

The woman testified that Haby and her ex-husband were extremely close, with Haby playing the role of the accuser’s father figure and “No. 1 spiritual influence.”

“Both of them at times referred to one another as father and son,” she testified.

But the ex-wife said that as she became more involved with the accuser, Haby began treating him with “bipolarity” — happy with him one week and unhappy the next.

She said and the accuser left the church around October 2009 because of the way Haby treated him and his family and because the church seemed to be moving in a more charismatic direction.

The woman said that in early 2010, shortly before the couple got engaged to be married, the accuser confided in her about the abuse, shocking her but not surprising her.

“He was distraught. … I had never seem him that way before so it was very alarming.”

Contemplating suicide

The accuser testified that he struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts because of the sexual abuse.

The birth of their son, his ex-wife testified, increased the accuser’s “burden as far as protecting his child and thinking more broadly about what it means to protect children.”

Though counseling did not save their marriage, it did prompt the accuser to consider confronting Haby.

But before he could set up the meeting, the accuser said, he suffered a breakdown.

“I ran out of the house, got in the truck, watching my wife yell at me to come home,” the accuser said. “I had no intent on coming back. I was going to be done that night. My life was going to be done that night.”

The man said it was his son’s eyes that stopped him from taking his life.

“The innocence of my son,” the man said, wiping away tears. “Being the man and the father he deserves stopped me. He doesn’t deserve to be without a father.”

The man said he later sent Haby a letter instead, hoping for a response but never getting one.

“I decided to go to the police because I couldn’t allow this action to happen again to another person,” he said.

Deanna Boyd: 817-390-7655, @deannaboyd