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Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor John Yelton Charged With Child Abuse

pastor john yelton

John Yelton, a Baptist pastor and traveling preacher, was arrested earlier this year and charged with child abuse. Yelton did not appear for his court appearance and was on the lam for months until he was apprehended this week in Panama City, Florida.

Earlier this year, a WSOC-9 report stated:

A Charlotte-area pastor is accused of using his work as a preacher to target vulnerable women and abuse them.

Investigative reporter Paul Boyd found seven women who said there’s another side to John Yelton.

YouTube videos of the preacher showed he is very energetic behind the pulpit, and Channel 9 confirmed that he spent time at a church in Gastonia, formerly known as Canaan Land Baptist Church.

Yelton said he’s traveled throughout North Carolina, preaching “the word of God.”

But April Justice and the other women said this preacher is actually a predator.

“It was a nightmare,” Justice said.

Justice said she was approached by Yelton on Facebook a year ago. She said his page had photos showing he was an ordained pastor.

“He says, ‘I’m a pastor,’ and I was, like, OK. And he said, ‘How would you feel like being a pastor’s wife?'” Justice said.

Justice believes he used his preaching background to earn her trust.

“It made me trust him a lot more than it would an average guy,” Justice said.

They married three months later.

“He asked me to marry him at the Bible book store in Hickory,” Justice said.

The wedding in rural North Carolina was picture perfect.

Justice thought Yelton was an answer to her prayers, but three weeks after the wedding,she said his “true colors” started to show.

She said he abused her verbally and physically. A few months later, she said she walked in on him hitting her 9-year-old daughter.

“Hit her. Kicked her. She had bruises on her arms, legs, face and everything,” Justice said.

April called police and said she took these photos of the bruising.

Yelton was arrested and charged with child abuse, false imprisonment and communicating threats.

Justice obtained a protective order and quickly discovered other women through social media who told similar stories about the pastor.

“I thought it was my fault. Until I found out he’d done it to all of them, and then I was, like, wow. This guy’s a monster,’” Justice said.

A Whistleblower 9 investigation connected seven different women to Yelton, including another ex-wife. All of the women said he told them that they would make a great preacher’s wife.

Sarah Hopper said she became involved with Yelton more than a decade ago when she was only 17 years old.

“I was young, and I was stupid,” Hopper said.

They met through the former Canaan Land Baptist Church in Gastonia. She said Yelton was involved with the church’s youth group at the time.

“When you get with him, it’s like the devil’s come out, and you can’t get away,” Hopper said.

She said they moved in together when she turned 18. Yelton is 6 years older.

“As he got drunk, the violence started,” Hopper said.

She said the abuse continued when she became pregnant.

She said she finally left him a few years after giving birth to their daughter and has full custody of the child.

“He’s not a preacher. Preacher’s don’t act like this,” Hopper said.

Boyd tracked Yelton down the day of a child abuse hearing in Catawba County.

He denied using his preaching background to pick up women and take advantage of them.

“God knows I didn’t. That’s the only person I have to answer to is God,” Yelton said.

….

Today, the Panama City News Herald reports:

A former North Carolina pastor on the run from child abuse charges for months has been tracked down in Panama City by his bondsman, according to official reports.

John Yelton, 36, faces charges of child abuse, false imprisonment and communicating threats after his arrest. He is accused of using his position as a North Carolina preacher to target women and then abuse them, officials reported.

Bay County court records also indicate Yelton pleaded no contest in July to a local domestic battery charge and was sentenced to a year of probation.

….

Yelton denied all of the charges but left town shortly after, skipping out on $6,500 bond. After learning of his disappearance, a bail bondsman tracked Yelton to Panama City, where he was working at a local manufacturing job. The bail bondsman took Yelton into custody and transported him back to North Carolina.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Heather Ledbetter

    Mr Yelton is back in Panama City Florida. Manager of some athletic clothing store and playing grandpa to someone’s children.

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