Local karate studio owner Josh Thomas Churchill accused of sex with underage girl

SAN DIEGO - The operator of a Poway karate studio is in custody on suspicion of having sex with an underage girl, San Diego County sheriff's officials announced Monday.

Sheriff's detectives with the department's Child Abuse Unit arrested 31-year-old Josh Thomas Churchill on June 5 after it was determined that he had unlawful sex with a female minor over a period of three years "at various locations including his karate studio."

Churchill is the operator of United Studios Self Defense Karate Studio (13331 Poway Road).

Sheriff's officials said Churchill is being held on $25 million bail on suspicion of 500 counts that include:

-- 288(C)(1) PC, Any lewd act with a victim 14 or 15 years old and when the suspect is 10 years or more older
-- 288a(b)(2) PC, Oral copulation with victim under 16 years old and when the suspect is over 21 years old
-- 286(b)(2) PC, Sodomy with a victim under 16 years old and when the suspect is over 21 years old

The father of the accuser did not want to be interviewed on camera but told 10News he believes justice will prevail. He added that he and his daughter filed a restraining order earlier this month after a confrontation with Churchill turned physical.

In a copy of the order obtained by 10News, Churchill's accuser said she had been sexually involved with the instructor since she was 14. Her father quoted Churchill threatened to kill him and was known to keep a gun in his nightstand.

Churchill also filed his own protective order, describing how his accuser made threatening phone calls and texts and how she was going to ruin his life and put him in jail. He said in the restraining order request, "She put her hands around my throat and was trying to choke me."

No one was at Churchill's home on Monday but neighbors described him and his wife as a pleasant couple.

It is unclear if or when the studio will reopen. Churchill is set to be arraigned on Tuesday.

The sheriff's department is urging anyone with information on this case or similar incidents to contact the Child Abuse Unit at 858-565-5200.

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