The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
People shouldn’t believe everything that they hear. There are three sides to every story. That’s his side, the accusers’ side, and God’s side. God is the ultimate judge — the one who is going to bring everything out.
— Tiana Rayford, wife of accused rapist Pastor Larry Rayford
Larry Rayford, pastor of The Ship Ministries in Clarksville, Tennessee, stands accused of raping two teenagers, ages fifteen and thirteen at the time of the alleged rapes.
Pastor Larry J. Rayford Jr., 43, was booked into Montgomery County Jail today on four counts of rape and four counts of statutory rape, in addition to a worthless check charge.
One victim was 15 and the other was 13 at the time of the incidents in August 2020, according to court records obtained by Clarksville Now.
When reached for comment, the pastor’s wife, Tiana Rayford, said the allegations are false.
“People shouldn’t believe everything that they hear,” she said. “There are three sides to every story. That’s his side, the accusers’ side and God’s side. God is the ultimate judge – the one who is going to bring everything out.”
In August 2021, a year after the alleged incidents and following a criminal investigation, Rayford was indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury on two counts of rape and two counts of statutory rape with each teenager.
In late November, Rayford left Clarksville for Holland, Michigan, where several family members had died, and he was needed to help with their funerals, Tiana Rayford told Clarksville Now. While there, his aunt became seriously ill, and he stayed to take care of her temporarily, she said.
Michigan State Police said today that over the Christmas break, authorities developed a potential location for Rayford’s whereabouts. Officers in Michigan worked with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office to track Rayford down, and on Dec. 22, he was arrested in Holland, Michigan, with assistance from a K-9 unit.
Rayford is affiliated with The Ship Ministries at 108 Kraft St. As of Jan. 25, Rayford was still listed on the church’s website as “Overseer/Senior Pastor: Pastor Larry Polo Rayford Jr.”
Tiana Rayford said the ministry still exists, but they have stopped operations until the case is over, and she asked for everyone’s prayers as they go through this situation.
Rayford has prior criminal charges in Davidson County. In 2007, he was convicted of domestic assault. In 2016, he was charged with child abuse. That case was retired.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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