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Boulder man accused of sexually assaulting girl he met through Buddhist community

Posted at 9:06 AM, Feb 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-01 19:55:59-05

BOULDER, Colo. — A 71-year-old man is accused of sexually assaulting a teen he met through the Shambhala Buddhist community in Boulder and groomed in the early 2000s before he was expelled from the community.

Boulder police arrested William Lloyd Karelis, 71, on Friday on a charge of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust.

The child was sexually assaulted by Karelis several times, starting in 2000 when she was 13 years old, police said.

Karelis met the young girl at the Shambhala Center, a Buddhist community, when he was a teacher and leader at meditation retreats.

According to a warrant for his arrest, Karelis was the girl's meditation instructor and the two formed a close bond. But at some point, the girl started increasingly being asked to come stay at his home in Boulder, where she would stay in a separate room and Karelis would allegedly perform oral sex on her after his wife went to sleep.

The alleged abuse went on for years, according to the warrant, though the girl told police that Karelis only performed oral sex on her and kissed her.

It's unclear how old the victim was when the abuse first began as the warrant is redacted. But it says that the abuse started around the year 2000.

In 2003, the girl's mother confronted the girl, asking her, "What's up with you and Bill Karelis?" Prior to the conversation, according to the warrant, the girl's parents had encouraged her relationship with Karelis because of their faith but were seemingly unaware of the alleged abuse.

The warrant says her mother had been attending a retreat in which she learned several other women accused Karelis of sexual abuse. He was expelled from the community and it "set up a council of people that were responsible for keeping in contact with him as well as working with people in the community to heal the wounds from this event."

According to the warrant, Karelis' wife was upset and at one point confronted the victim, though the victim ignored her.

Police were told about Karelis' alleged abuse in August 2018, when a person called Boulder police and said her friend had been assaulted by Karelis when she was young. The friend showed officers an email from the victim that outlined the alleged abuse, after which police started investigating.

A judge signed the warrant for Karelis' arrest on Jan. 30.

Karelis appeared in court on Friday afternoon and saw his bond set at $10,000. His attorney denied the allegations against him and said his client would likely bond out of jail.

"Mr. Karelis maintains he is innocenet of all of these charges and we are confident that will be found to be true," his attorney, Fred Bibik, told Denver7.

The Shambala Interim Board issued the following statement Friday afternoon:

William Karelis was a member of the Shambhala community from its early days. In response to inquiries from the Boulder Police Department, Shambhala confirmed that Mr. Karelis was the subject of two Care and Conduct complaint procedures in 2002 and 2008. These were initiated by women who alleged that he had behaved inappropriately towards them. Due to his failure to comply with Shambhala’s Care and Conduct procedure, Mr. Karelis's teaching and meditation instructor credentials were suspended in 2004 and later permanently revoked in 2008. Owing to procedural disputes between Mr. Karelis and Shambhala’s Care and Conduct officers in both cases, neither resulted in an agreed resolution. Mr. Karelis resigned from the organization in 2009. None of the complaints received by Shambhala involved minors or reports of criminal behavior. Shambhala has always and will continue to comply with mandated reporting concerning minors. We also have and will continue to cooperate with and fully support the ongoing BPD investigation.

Boulder police said they believe there may be more victims spanning over the past 30 years. Anybody who believes they or somebody they know was victimized by Karelis is asked to call Boulder Det. Ross Richart at 303-441-1833 or Det. Heather Frey at 303-441-3369.

"There is no statute of limitations for this type of offense regarding a person in a position of trust over someone under 15 years of age," explained Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty. "Given the length of the conduct that went on in this caes, we believe that there are other victims out there."