On December 6, 2022, Edward Lilly, 72, of Boothwyn, PA was sentenced to six years’ probation after entering into an open guilty plea in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. Lilly pled guilty to one count of knowingly photographing or videotaping a person under the age of 18 engaging in sexual acts, which is a felony of the second degree. As a condition of his sentence, Lilly must register as a sex offender for 25 years. Lilly, a former pastor at the Christian Church of Chester, originally faced 23 charges total. This included 10 counts each of child pornography and knowingly photographing or videotaping a person under the age of 18 engaging in sexual acts, all felonies of the second degree. He additionally faced one first-degree felony charge of communicating with a minor to facilitate sexual abuse, one count of criminal use a communication facility, a third-degree felony, and one misdemeanor count of corruption of minors. The remaining charges were dismissed under the open guilty plea before Judge Richard N. Cappelli. Although Assistant District Attorney Bryan Barth lobbied for Lilly to serve a period of house arrest, Judge Cappelli did not require house arrest, instead crediting Lilly for his cooperation with investigators.
On December 17, 2020, we reported that Lilly met the victim at a grocery store that he frequented in 2017 when the victim was 16 years old. Over the next year, authorities alleged that Lilly groomed the victim. According to the criminal complaint, Lilly videotaped the child performing sex acts using his cell phone. Lilly also sexually assaulted the victim at the park, as well as in hotel rooms, and in his car. During that time, Lilly paid the minor $2,000 for her silence and purchased her a cell phone. Police later found the explicit photos of the victim, as well as the videos of the victim and Lilly, according to the affidavit. After his arrest, Lilly resigned from the Christian Church of Chester, where he had served as a pastor for 27 years.
As previously stated by Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, to fabricate a sense of comfort for the victim, predators will groom their victims by inserting themselves into the victim’s life by expressing a shared interest and making themselves indispensable as a trusted mentor or friend. Likewise, the predator will insert references of a sexual nature into conversations where they do not belong to normalize that talk and to break down barriers to sexual acts. Sargent Robin Clark of the Criminal Investigation Unit urged parents to “know what your children are doing” during a press conference after the initial charges were announced against Lilly.
The CSE Institute is encouraged by the diligence of the Delaware County District Attorney’s office that lead to Lilly’s arrest. It is vital that law enforcement remain vigilant about protecting the youth in their communities and conducting investigations that target child sexual abuse and rape. We especially commend the survivor and her courageousness in coming forward and telling her story. After all, it is irrefutable that survivor voices will be the force of change in the sex trafficking narrative.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.