Former Pepperdine professor faces molestation charges

Markus Holland McDowell

Markus Holland McDowell is accused of molesting and sexually assaulting three girls. Detectives say there could be more victims.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

A former adjunct professor who taught religion at Pepperdine University for nearly 10 years was arrested last week at his Camarillo home for allegedly molesting and sexually assaulting three girls during an eight-year period. The girls were members of the youth ministry program at Camarillo Church of Christ, where the accused, Markus Holland McDowell, served as the youth minister. McDowell was also accused of possessing child pornography on his home computer, according to Ventura County Sheriff’s officials.

Pepperdine spokesperson Wileen Wong confirmed this week in a telephone interview that McDowell was a guest lecturer and adjunct professor at Pepperdine from 1996 to 2005. She said he was not tenured, and declined to state what subjects he taught. A former Pepperdine student who asked not to be named for this article said McDowell was a religion professor at Pepperdine’s Seaver College. As of Tuesday evening, before The Malibu Times went to print, McDowell’s name appeared on the faculty list on Pepperdine’s Web site. However, no further information could be found about McDowell on the university’s Web site.

Wong said she could not comment on any information regarding McDowell beyond that he taught there. “We don’t discuss any personnel issues,” she said.

McDowell, 46, was arrested and booked at the Ventura County pre-trial detention facility last Thursday. He was released the next day after posting a $50,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in Ventura County Superior Court for his arraignment on Friday. The charges McDowell faces, according to the court’s Web site, include four counts of “lewd act upon a child,” two counts of “lewd act with child,” two counts of “oral copulation of a person under 16,” two counts of “anal and genital penetration by foreign object” and one count of “possession or control of child pornography.”

McDowell did not return several calls for comment.

Ventura County Sheriff’s Capt. Jerry Hernandez said in an interview this week that detectives learned about the allegations last July. An investigation began and concluded last week when, according to a press release, “[Detectives] were able to gather sufficient evidence to arrest McDowell.”

According to the release, McDowell met the three alleged victims through the youth ministry program at Camarillo Church. The molestations and sexual assaults allegedly began when the girls were between the ages of 13 and 14, and occurred between 1991 and 1999. According to the release, McDowell was no longer employed by the church at the time of his arrest. Calls to the church were not returned.

“There are three [alleged victims] that we know of, and they are separate incidents,” Hernandez said. “We are concerned because of his exposure to so many people that there might be others; they just have not come forward.”

Hernandez said anybody who might have been a victim or has more information about the alleged crimes should call the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department at 805.654.9511 or Detective Lori Erickson at 805.477.7000.