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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Vernon Williamson Sentenced to Life in Prison for Sexual Battery

vernon williamson

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.

Vernon Williamson, a former associate pastor at Assembly of the Body of Christ (the church is defunct) in Jacksonville, Florida, was recently sentenced to life in prison on four counts of sexual battery. Williamson’s fellow pastors, Paul Dyal and Jerome Teschendorf were arrested on similar charges and await trial. These men are 87, 80, and 70, respectively. According to news reports, their alleged crimes date back to the 1970s.

The Florida Times-Union reports:

In the first of three sexual assault cases against a pastor and two associates charged with offenses that began in the 1970s at a Jacksonville church, Vernon Lavern Williamson was found guilty Thursday and sentenced to life in prison.

Williamson, now 87, was arrested in Oklahoma and charged with four counts of sexual battery in March 2022. It followed a raid at the Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ on Old Kings Road, where the pastor, 80-year-old Paul Brady Dyal, was jailed and charged with capital sexual battery on a child 11 or younger, according to the Sheriff’s Office. 

In addition to Williamson, authorities also arrested Jerome Teschendorf, 70, on related capital sexual battery charges in Oklahoma. Both Dyal and Teschendorf are awaiting trial.

The ages of the children were redacted in arrest documents, but an information report cites they were younger than 12. Williamson’s arrest report says he was living on the church’s property at the time. One girl who came forward as an adult said her mother left her in his care when the sexual abuse occurred.

She reported it to the Sheriff’s Office in 2008 and told investigators she disclosed the incidents to the pastor, Dyal, in 2004. Williamson denied the allegations, and Dyal told investigators he didn’t believe the child at the time. 

The investigation was suspended, but in 2019 another woman was interviewed stating Williamson would take care of her and her brothers during the day while their father worked. She said the incidents started out as molestation when he would bathe and dress her. It progressed, and about a year later it became rape, according to the arrest report.

The time frame was not included in the report, but it states Williamson was about 61 to 63 years old during the incidents. A separate information report lists the years as 1996 to 1999.

The victim said she was scared and had urinary tract infections and would frequently urinate on herself. After noticing this at school, a woman asked her what was wrong and she told her what Williamson was doing, the report states.

The woman at the school told Dyal’s wife. Once it was made known to Dyal, the girl and her brothers were separated and sent to live with other families in the church, which is what the girl said she feared would happen if she disclosed the assaults. Williamson was allowed to stay at the church until the girl told another woman about him, and he was sent away, according to the report.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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