DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — A victim of sexual assault and his mom are sharing their story now that his abuser is behind bars.

“I’m angry that it went on for so long, angry that he did that to my son,” Lisa Young said.

She said she adopted her son Michael and his sister Leanna in 2002 to protect them from their past sexual abuse as children. But she’s angry that a person she thought she could trust also abused Michael.

He said the abuse started in 8th grade and lasted until his senior year of high school. He didn’t tell anybody until he was in college, and when he finally told his parents, they filed charges.

“In 8th grade I noticed a huge change in him,” Lisa said. “And at first I thought it was just his past coming to light.”

But it wasn’t. Her son was being sexually abused again; this time it was her boss.

“Bob Lazzell was a little too friendly with my son,” Lisa said.

Lisa was a teacher at First Baptist Christian School, and Robert Lazzell was the principal.

“He would drive by our house at night, drive by in the alleyway,” said Lisa.

Her mom instinct was telling her something was wrong.

“But I couldn’t prove it and I looked at Michael’s phone,” Lisa said. “It didn’t show. Come to find out, he had given Michael a different phone.”

Years after the abuse, Michael finally told his parents the truth.

“I just couldn’t take it anymore,” he said. “The truth was so heavy.”

Michael said it started when he was 14 years old. He went to Lazzell as a trusted adult for help.

“I was confused about what had happened to me as a child, and I opened up to him,” Michael said.

He said what started as a mentorship turned into manipulation over his past trauma and became years of sexual abuse.

“If I didn’t do said things, show him affection the way he wanted it to be or the attention he wanted, there would repercussions and consequences,” Michael said.

Michael said Lazzell was there at every turn and would even stalk him if he blocked him on social media.

“He made it a point to position himself in locker rooms and on trips in hotel rooms,” Michael said. “To able to at least observe other young people, boys specifically.”

The abuse took a toll on Michael’s mental health. Lisa said he attempted suicide several times in college. But now, Michael is just happy Lazzell is behind bars for the next 10 years.

“Because that’s 10 years he can’t hurt anybody else,” Michael said.

“God gives each one of us choices to make, and Bob Lazzell made a wicked, wicked decision when he did that to my son,” Lisa said.

Michael has a long healing journey ahead but has found trust in God and his in faith, that he wasn’t sure could ever be restored.

“After everything I’ve been through, He has never forsaken me and even though it felt like it at times, He has always been loyal and, if anything, it’s honestly made my faith stronger,” Michael said.

Now Michael and Lisa hope more victims will come forward.

A judge sentenced Lazzell to 12 years in prison. The State’s Attorney said he was the principal and a Deacon. He worked at the church from 2000-2016 and was also the Mission Fund Treasurer. Lazzell will be required to serve 85 percent of his sentence.

We reached out to the church and they sent us this statement:

As a ministry, we are deeply grieved that one of our former staff members has been convicted of sexually assaulting a minor. Today, Robert Lazzell has pled guilty to these charges and was sentenced to serve twelve years in prison. The victim was a youth in our church and school at the time when the assault occurred. Our hearts are broken for the victim and his family, and we are thankful for the justice that has transpired, today, in this situation. First Baptist Church of Danville does not cover-up abuse, and we have zero tolerance for child abuse in our ministry. As a matter of policy, First Baptist Church reports all suspicions of potential child abuse to the authorities. We carefully interview and screen our employees and volunteers, and our leadership team works to maintain child protection policies based on best practices nationally and Illinois State law. Every youth volunteer and staff member of our church and school are required to go through mandatory training classes each year reviewing these policies and procedures. Additionally, we have classes for our students informing and instructing them on how they should feel comfortable in reporting any abuse to our counseling staff immediately. Unfortunately, our church and school staff were not made aware of this conduct until after it was reported to law enforcement. We believe that transparency, child safety, and accountability are essential for successful ministry, and we are fully committed to ministering to our people in a safe and responsible manner. We stand with any victim of abuse, and we continue to stand with this young man and his family as they have sought justice in this matter. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim and his family as they continue to heal from this situation. We continue to prayerfully support the victim and his family as they seek justice and healing from this situation. In accordance with our child protection policy, First Baptist Church of Danville does not tolerate child abuse or any cover-up of abuse in our ministries.

First Baptist Church of Danville.

Lazzell marks the third man who worked at the school convicted of sex crimes. In 2000, a church spokesperson said David Cornelius was terminated. When asked, they would not say why. Cornelius then taught at Schlarman Academy in Danville, where he took a plea deal after sexual abuse allegations involving a nine-year-old. Cornelius was given four years of probation.

Rodger Van Raden worked at First Baptist from 2003 to 2013. He was also terminated. When asked why, the church spokesperson would also not say. Van Raden then went to work at Faith Baptist Church in Urbana. He was convicted in 2021 after abusing a female student in his youth group. He is serving 15 years.

Michael and Lisa both gave a statement in court last week. It was Michael’s first time seeing Lazzell since the abuse and he said it was liberating to see his abuser brought to justice. It was also nice to see a crowd of blue.

Katie Gibson, who went to school with Michael, started the Blue Shirt Coalition to stand in solidarity with Michael and fill the courtroom with one color, so he knew he was supported.

Gibson said the whole case was a shock since her mom was also a teacher there and she was around Lazzell often.

“He was involved in everything,” Gibson said. “He was in the choir, he did children’s ministry, he was obviously in charge of the school. So, when this case came out, it was a shock. It was a shock to all of us because we had other people charged in the past, but he wasn’t on anyone’s radar that I was aware of.”

Michael, Lisa and Gibson believe there are other victims out there. They all encourage anyone to come forward and say if someone does, they will be supported.