Menu Close

Category: Black Collar Crime

Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Bret Welty Pleads Guilty to Sexually Molesting Teen Girl

bret welty

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.

In 2019, Bret Welty was formerly a sound tech at Calvary Chapel in Boise, a pastor at Common Ground Biker Church in Meridian, and currently the pastor of Hard Rock Revival Church (a home church) in Boise, and the operator of Sound Harvest (all in Idaho) — a business that set up audio equipment for churches and events. (According to Linkedin, Sound Harvest was owned by Michelle Welty.) Welty also sold real estate.

Hard Rock Revival Church described itself this way:

We are a new church with old roots!  Doing our best to recapture and revitalize Jesus’ mission here in Boise.  We have started off as a home based church and plan to grow as the Lord ads [sic] to us and we would love to serve you and your family.  Our Pastors Bret and Kelly Welty have served as ministers and Worship Leaders for over 30 years and worship is a center point here at Hard Rock Revival.  So is connecting people with Jesus and God’s word!  We endeavor to give our utmost towards raising up God’s people to be active, healthy, and loving people who want to make a difference in this crazy world.

In August 2019, Welty was charged with “sexual abuse of a minor younger than 16 years old, and lewd conduct with a minor younger than 16 years old.”

The Idaho Press reported:

One of the members of his congregation was a 15-year-old girl who was having family troubles and living with anxiety. The family felt it might help her to spend a weekend at the Welty household, where Welty lived with his wife, 15-year-old son, and 24-year-old stepdaughter. She was at the home Aug. 9.

Police and prosecutors say that night Welty entered her room and touched her inappropriately. He continued to touch her for between 30 minutes and an hour, until he was interrupted by his wife, Fouts explained in court.

“The defendant confessed to his conduct,” Fouts said. “He stated that he’d struggled with such behavior before, although not with victims of this age, this young age.”

Fouts asked Magistrate Judge Michael Lojek to set Welty’s bail at $350,000. Smith asked for far less.

“He’s been a pillar of…various churches that he was ministering at, and I would just ask the court to set bond at $25,000,” Smith said.

Lojek set Welty’s bond at $250,000. He also ordered Welty stop ministering, until given permission from the court “so as to protect any other…vulnerable potential victims he may come into contact with in that capacity.”

Lojek said he considered the nature of the relationship between Welty and the girl. It was unique, given that he was her pastor, and the pastor for the rest of her family. He issued two no contact orders in the case, barring Welty from having contact with the girl, as well as with her father.

Matthew Fouts, of the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, stated “The defendant confessed to his conduct. He stated that he’d struggled with such behavior before, although not with victims of this age, this young age.” This tells me that there is likely more to this story than has been reported. I suspect there are more victims.

Bret Welty was also a musician. His bio page stated:

Bret Welty is a blues rock singer, songwriter, and guitar player with an inspired approach to blending the soul of blues with a variety of musical genres. Bret has been playing in bands for over 25 years, in a variety of roles.

Born in California and raised on a variety of music, Bret spent his formative high school years split evenly between Oregon and later California, where he was exposed to blues and rock. “The first time I heard guitar and blues put together, I was hooked,” Bret explains. As a young man, Bret tried his hand at 11 instruments before settling on the guitar. He received his first real guitar at age 15, and by the summer he had saved up enough money to buy his first electric guitar. Within 6 months, he was in his first band, and his love of performing live grew from there. Bret studied jazz in college, and has worked as a guitar teacher and faith music leader.

A true musician in every sense of the word, Bret plays drums, bass, lead guitar and mandolin. He has played all over the Northwest at both intimate and large venues, including state fairs and music festivals. Bret has played shows with Daryl Mansfield and has performed with Dennis Agajanian in concert.

Bret will release his album in 2014 “Unlimited Edition” a collection of rock and blues originals, is due to be released August 23rd 2014. It features a song dedicated to wounded service men and women whohave been hurt in the service of our country.  Coves of Bill Withers and the Marshal Tucker band can be found on this release.

Blues is at the heart of Bret’s music, but listeners will also enjoy elements of jazz, rock, funk, Latin, R&B, southern rock, and country. His albums feature original song writing and topics that listeners can easily identify with: love lost, hard times, triumph, freedom, and patriotism.

In December 2019, Welty pleaded guilty to molesting the girl:

A Boise man who ran a church out of his home has pleaded guilty to molesting a teenage girl whose parents had asked him to help her with her anxiety. 

Bret Welty, 48, admitted to sexual abuse of a minor Dec. 4 as part of a plea deal in which prosecutors dropped a charge of lewd conduct with a child.

Welty was the pastor of the now-defunct Hard Rock Revival Church, which was attended by both the 15-year-old victim and her parents. Prosecutor Erin Pittenger said in court the sexual abuse happened Aug. 9, after the girl’s parents had sent their daughter to stay at Welty’s home for the weekend. 

“The reason for having the victim stay with the defendant and his family is that she was suffering from some anxiety issues, and her family believed that a weekend with the pastor and his family would help,” Pittenger said.

According to prosecutors, the teen was in a bedroom when Welty walked into the room, refused to leave, and had the girl undress under the guise of giving her a massage. Pittenger said Welty touched the girl sexually for between 30 minutes and an hour, only stopping when his wife knocked on the bedroom door, interrupting the assault. 

Welty later admitted to abusing the girl during a recorded phone call, and told her not to tell anyone about what had happened.

Welty’s wife filed for divorce the month after his arrest. At his plea hearing, Welty told the judge he had decided “early on” to admit guilt in the case. 

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will ask for a 15-year prison sentence, with three years before Welty could be eligible for parole. The judge ordered him to undergo a psychosexual evaluation before his Feb. 11 sentencing. 

If evaluators determine Welty is a low risk to re-offend, prosecutors will consider recommending the rider program, which could drastically reduce Welty’s time behind bars.

The defendant’s attorney, Jeffrey Smith, asked the judge to reduce Welty’s bond, noting that his client had been held in the Ada County Jail on a $250,000 bond since his arrest in August.

mith asked for the bond to be dropped to $20,000 or $25,000 instead, arguing that release from jail would enable Welty to care for his mother after a major surgery and get back to his work of scheduling and performing music. 

His lawyer said those shows would either be held locally “or within a couple hundred miles of Boise,” and that Welty would not leave the state unless given permission by the court.

Smith also pointed to Welty’s volunteer work, which included leading youth groups, coaching children’s sports teams, and teaching music at both middle and high schools “to thousands of students during his time here in Boise.”

Since his arrest, Welty has also started a Bible study for other inmates in the Ada County Jail, his lawyer said.

In his argument for the bond reduction, Smith described Welty’s sexual abuse of the 15-year-old as “a one-time occasion,” and asked Judge Deborah Bail to take into consideration that Welty has a very minimal criminal history.

“He’s basically crime-free,” Smith said. 

“Well, that’s fine, but he just pled guilty to a major felony,” Bail responded. 

The judge rejected the motion to lower Welty’s bond, telling him she was concerned about his access to minors. 

“He appears to me to have quite a lot of access to children, with a position that would make parents likely to drop their guard, because one would expect that a person in that role would be a safe person for one’s child to be around,” she said. 

Bail added that she wanted to see the results of Welty’s psychosexual evaluation before she would weigh in on whether he could be safely out of custody, and reminded him again that he had just admitted to a significant crime. 

“It’s a serious invasion of a person’s personal space and an extraordinary breach of trust,” she said. “I’m not changing anything until I know what’s going on.”

In October 2020, Welty was sentenced to up to twelve years in prison.

The Idaho Press reported:

The Idaho man who ran his own church and pleaded guilty to lewd conduct with a 15-year-old girl last year will spend at least three years in prison.

A judge on Monday sentenced Bret Welty, 49, to up to 12 years in prison after Welty in December pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor younger than 16 years old.

Welty is now out on parole.

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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Luverne Zacharias Accused of Sexually Molesting Minor Church Girl

luverne zacharias

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.

Luverne Zacharias, a pastor at Christian Family Church in Owatonna, Minnesota, and principal at El Shaddai Christian School, stands accused of sexually molesting a church teen.

The Roys Report reports:

A former Minnesota pastor has been charged with several felony sex crimes for allegedly sexually touching a girl in a school basement and at his church office, beginning when she was 14, court records show.

Luverne Daniel Zacharias, 46, former pastor of Owatonna’s Christian Family Church (CFC), reportedly told the girl she was his “kryptonite,” according to records from the Steele County District Court. And when the victim reported the matter to the head pastors, they reportedly discouraged her from going to police, telling her to think about how that would affect his own kids, records show.

Zacharias is being charged with six counts of criminal sexual conduct, including charges related to penetration, sexual touch, and abusing his position of authority, court records show. Zacharias was the victim’s youth pastor at the time of the abuses and was also the principal of El Shaddai Christian School, a school associated with CFC.

The abuse allegedly happened from 2006-2009, beginning when the victim was a middle school student at the school, records show. Later, Zacharias was reportedly promoted to campus pastor, then resigned a year ago, stating “poor choices” as the reason.

….

The victim told police in her statement that “teachers would send kids to the basement to retrieve milk from the fridge, sometimes Zacharias would be down there.”

Zacharias wrote her notes and told her she was “beautiful,” that she reminded him of her daughter, the victim’s statement says. He reportedly added, “I can’t control myself around you,” and “you’re my kryptonite.”

He initially sexually touched her at least once a day over her clothing, she reportedly told police. Eight or nine months later, he started touching her underneath her clothing, penetrating her. He also would move her hand to feel his penis over his clothing. The abuse happened at the school and the church until the victim graduated in 2009, court records state.

In 2019, Zacharias contacted her, asking for oral sex, she told police in a statement. In 2021, he reportedly asked her to send him nude photos or videos of her.

The victim refused and then reported the abuse to Tim and Cherrie Peterson, pastors of CFC, her statement to police states. In 2022, she reported the matter to the Owatonna Police Department.

The Petersons did not respond to multiple requests by The Roys Report (TRR) for comment.

A relative of the victim, also a former student, told police in a statement that Zacharias also contacted her in 2011 and asked for oral sex and for her to send him pictures.

“When she would go to the church and see him, he would close off his door and right (sic) the messages on pieces of paper so no one would hear,” police stated in court documents. “The former student stated she would say no to him or freeze and tense up when he asked these questions.”

….

The victim told police in her statement that “teachers would send kids to the basement to retrieve milk from the fridge, sometimes Zacharias would be down there.”

Zacharias wrote her notes and told her she was “beautiful,” that she reminded him of her daughter, the victim’s statement says. He reportedly added, “I can’t control myself around you,” and “you’re my kryptonite.”

He initially sexually touched her at least once a day over her clothing, she reportedly told police. Eight or nine months later, he started touching her underneath her clothing, penetrating her. He also would move her hand to feel his penis over his clothing. The abuse happened at the school and the church until the victim graduated in 2009, court records state.

In 2019, Zacharias contacted her, asking for oral sex, she told police in a statement. In 2021, he reportedly asked her to send him nude photos or videos of her.

The victim refused and then reported the abuse to Tim and Cherrie Peterson, pastors of CFC, her statement to police states. In 2022, she reported the matter to the Owatonna Police Department.

The Petersons did not respond to multiple requests by The Roys Report (TRR) for comment.

A relative of the victim, also a former student, told police in a statement that Zacharias also contacted her in 2011 and asked for oral sex and for her to send him pictures.

“When she would go to the church and see him, he would close off his door and right (sic) the messages on pieces of paper so no one would hear,” police stated in court documents. “The former student stated she would say no to him or freeze and tense up when he asked these questions.”

When the first victim reported the assault to the Petersons, they told her they’d “hold Zacharias accountable for his actions,” according to the victim’s statement to police. But they also reportedly discouraged her from reporting the matter to police, noting the impact on the Zacharias family, records state.

A former church member reportedly told police that she was present for a “reconciliation” meeting with Zacharias, Cherrie Peterson, and the father of a victim, records show.

Cherrie Peterson told police in her statement that Zacharias admitted to the Petersons that he gave the victim “a couple of hugs when she was fifteen or sixteen from behind,” but said it was a “quick hug” that he regretted. In her statement, Cherrie Peterson told police Zacharias knew he should resign, but the Petersons were also trying to “restore him.”

Cherrie Peterson later told police that she knew about “inappropriate texts” Zacharias sent a then 17-year-old student. She said she suggested Zacharias “got counseling at the time,” court records state.

In a statement, a witness told police that the day Zacharias stepped down as pastor, the Petersons told the congregation not to record the church sermon. This seemed off, so the witness did it anyway, according to the witness’ statement.

The recording showed that Tim Peterson talked about “rebuking wrong behavior and restoring people of the congregation,” according to the police statement. Zacharias also spoke to the congregation to say he was resigning as campus pastor due to “poor choices,” police said in a statement.

“Today I am sharing with my church family that I have made poor choices in my past that I am not proud of,” Zacharias said in the recording provided to police. “These choices caused me to be unfit for my pastoral position. To protect my two girls and wife I will not share the details. I am now focusing on restoration.”

Please read the entire story at the Roys Report. This church and its pastor need to be held accountable for ignoring sexual abuse allegations.

The Steele County Times adds:

Leaders of at least one local church are taking steps to let their members know that they have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to allegations of abuse.

A letter from the three pastors and the youth director at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Owatonna sent a letter to “members and friends” of the church after the Steele County Times’ reporting of alleged pastoral abuse at Christian Family Church.

It addresses the story of Luverne Daniel Zacharias, 46, of Medford, who stands accused of sexually assaulting a former student at El Shaddai Christian School, where he served as a teacher and principal. The criminal complaint against him said the abuse continued into the victim’s adulthood, including an incident at the church, which is affiliated with the school.

Zacharias has been charged with one count each of first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct, as well as two counts each of third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, all felonies.

The letter begins by calling the local charges “serious and damaging to the child … We pray for the victim as they deal with the abuse that was inflicted upon them, and try to recover from this pain.

“Whether it is in Sunday school, Confirmation, youth activities and trips, or just hanging out in the building, children’s safety is a primary focus for the staff and volunteers,” the letter goes on to say.

“At Our Savior’s, all staff and anyone who works with children and youth are required to complete a background check, processed by a third party,” the pastors wrote.

The safeguards are part of the church’s policy, as well as a requirement of its insurance company.

The pastors, specifically, “have gone through a more rigorous criminal and work history background check,” they said.

The staff members at the church are also required by the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America to attend a Boundaries Training Workshop every three years.

Like most denominational churches, Our Savior’s is governed by several larger bodies, with oversight for everything from finances to policies to personnel, provided by committees on the local, state and national level.

“There is a zero-tolerance policy for any type of abuse by pastors in the ELCA and staff of congregations,” the letter says. “If there is any proven abuse in a person’s history, they are not allowed to work in an ELCA congregation.”

Non-denominational churches, including Christian Family Church, are not formally aligned with, or part of, any specific Christian denomination. As a result, there are no hard and fast rules for what a non-denominational church is or how it operates.

As such, they are self-governing entities.

Former CFC church members have told the Times that the majority of people who sit on its governing board are members of pastors Tim and Cherrie Peterson’s family.

The Petersons have not responded to multiple requests for comment.

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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Children’s Pastor James Dryden Arrested on Child Pornography Charges

james dryden

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.

James Dryden, children’s pastor at Stein Highway Church of God in Seaford, Delaware, stands accused of ten counts of child pornography possession.

Delaware Online reports:

A former Seaford children’s pastor has been arrested on 10 felony charges after admitting to possessing and viewing child sexual abuse material, the Delaware Department of Justice said Friday.

James Dryden, 74, was charged last week following an investigation by the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which includes Delaware State Police and the state Justice Department. The investigation began in July 2022 after the task force received cyber tips that Dryden’s IP address had accessed the material, court documents say.

After receiving the tips, law enforcement contacted Dryden at his home and seized his devices. A forensic examination of the items showed he had additional material, the Justice Department said.

According to the Justice Department, Dryden had been a children’s pastor at Stein Highway Church of God in Seaford for more than 20 years. In a Friday morning statement, Pastor Dan Southern defined Dryden as a “volunteer children’s worker.”

Southern added that the 74-year-old hasn’t been working with children at the church for about three years.

Still, “following proper policy, he is immediately suspended from any and all activities at the Stein Highway Church of God, pending investigation and disposition of these charges,” Southern said.

The Department of Justice said though Dryden is not charged with contacting a child − nor are investigators aware of any victims affiliated with the church − investigators are requesting anyone with information to come forward.

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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Philip Grandine Finally Headed to Prison for Drowning His Wife in Bathtub

anna and philp grandine

In 2019, Philip Grandine, pastor of Ennerdale Baptist Church in Toronto, Canada, was convicted of killing his pregnant wife. Grandine’s first conviction in 2012 was overturned on a technicality. The CBC reported:

A former Toronto pastor accused of secretly sedating his pregnant wife before she drowned in the bathtub was found guilty of manslaughter Thursday, his second conviction in a case that has spanned more than seven years.

Jurors convicted Philip Grandine Thursday after deliberating for just over a day.

The man, who has been out on bail for more than six years while the case wound its way through the justice system, looked straight ahead as the verdict was read.

Prosecutors alleged Grandine drugged his wife with the anti-anxiety medication lorazepam, better known as Ativan, so she wouldn’t be as vigilant while he continued an affair with her friend.

The Crown alleged he then did not prevent Anna Karissa Grandine from getting in a bath in her incapacitated state one night in October 2011.

Anna Grandine was 20 weeks pregnant when she died. Tests later revealed she had lorazepam in her blood despite never being prescribed the drug.

Defence lawyers had argued Anna Grandine took the medication herself and either slipped in the tub, hitting her head and drowning, or took her own life.

….

The Crown alleged Grandine was behind the searches, noting some occurred roughly at the same time as searches for escorts and other sex-related topics. Prosecutors also said lorazepam was not a drug that should be used by pregnant women and Anna Grandine was conscientious about the health of her baby.

The defence argued it was Anna Grandine who looked up lorazepam, suggesting she sought to self-medicate in light of the recent upheaval in her life.

Court heard Philip Grandine stepped down as pastor after it came to light that he was having an affair with a parishioner, who was also his wife’s friend. The congregation, to which Anna Grandine belonged, was also told of the affair, court heard.

Another pastor agreed to give them marriage counselling if Philip Grandine stopped cheating and gave up pornography, conditions the couple accepted, court heard.

But Grandine quickly resumed the affair and over time, his wife became suspicious, even challenging him on the issue in an early October counselling session, court heard.

Then, in mid-October, Anna Grandine suddenly experienced dizziness, fatigue and other symptoms, prompting her husband to take her to hospital, court heard. Her sister said Anna Grandine was afraid; her mother testified the 29-year-old asked her husband if he had given her a pill, which he denied.

Three days later, Anna Grandine drowned in the bathtub. Court heard toxicology tests detected Ativan in her system and then checked the samples taken during her hospital visit, where they also found the drug.

Twelve years later, the murderous Grandine is now headed for prison.

The Toronto Star reports:

The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld the manslaughter conviction and sentence given to an ex-Toronto pastor found guilty of his pregnant wife’s “diabolical and violent” bathtub drowning.

The decision means Philip Grandine, 35, is finally headed to prison to serve out the 15-year sentence a judge imposed after a Toronto jury found him guilty on Feb. 28, 2019.

Karissa Grandine, 29, drowned in a bathtub in the couple’s Scarborough home on Oct. 17, 2011. She was 20 weeks pregnant with their first child. The anti-anxiety drug lorazepam was found in her system. Her husband, a registered practical nurse originally from Paris, Ont., was charged with first-degree murder.

In 2012, during a trial in Toronto, the Crown alleged that he had drugged his wife with lorazepam and had intentionally caused her death by drowning.

The jury found Grandine guilty not of murder but guilty of manslaughter. On appeal, the verdict was overturned and a new trial ordered. The appeal court found the trial judge had erred by introducing a new theory that Grandine could be guilty of manslaughter by allowing his wife to take a bath after he knew she had ingested lorazepam.

Grandine was retried at the same downtown Toronto courthouse in 2019 on a charge of manslaughter and was convicted again by another jury. The Crown’s theory was that he administered the drug in order to pursue an extra-marital affair and to indulge his pornography obsession, or that he was criminally negligent in permitting his wife to enter the bath when he knew she was heavily sedated.

The defence argued Karissa voluntarily ingested the lorazepam and either drowned by suicide or died accidentally.

In January 2020, the judge sentenced Philip Grandine to 15 years in prison. She concluded Grandine was hostile toward his wife and administered the drug intending to incapacitate her and that his actions were planned, premeditated, diabolical and violent.

He immediately applied for bail and was released pending appeal. This time, his lawyers argued three grounds against conviction. Those arguments included that there was no evidence that Grandine knew his wife had consumed lorazepam or that she was at risk if she took a bath.

They also argued the sentence has harsh and excessive.

On Monday, Ontario’s highest court released its decision finding there was no error in the sentence, nor was it unfit. The appellate panel also found there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude Grandine knew she had taken lorazepam and was criminally negligent by omission by leaving her alone in the bath.

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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Update: Black Collar Crime: United Methodist Pastor Dennis Laferty Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Sexually Molesting His Daughters

dennis laferty

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.

In 2023, Dennis Laferty, pastor of Thompson United Methodist Church in Thompson, Ohio, was accused of the sexual abuse of minors: five counts of sexual battery, one count of gross sexual imposition, and one count of sexual imposition. It was alleged that the church covered up Laferty’s crimes. The victims were his two daughters.

Cleveland.com reported:

The minister of a church in Geauga County has been arrested and is facing multiple criminal charges after he was accused of the sexual abuse of minors.

Dennis Laferty, 37, who is pastor at Thompson United Methodist Church in Thompson Township, is charged with five counts of sexual battery, all third-degree felonies, according to Geauga County Common Pleas Court records. He also is charged with one count of gross sexual imposition, a third-degree felony, and one count of sexual imposition, a misdemeanor. A judge ordered he be held on a $100,000 bond.

Laferty was arrested Friday in Crawford County, the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office says. If Laferty is convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of five years on each felony count.

A news release from the sheriff’s office says Laferty is accused of sexually abusing minors beginning in 2019 and continuing until January of this year. Investigators believe there might be more victims.

The Geauga County Maple Leaf added:

The seven-count indictment against Laferty states a county grand jury found between Nov. 30, 2019, and Jan. 30, 2023, Laferty engaged in various acts of sexual misconduct with one or more minors. Specifically, Laferty was charged with five counts of third-degree felony sexual battery, one count of third-degree felony gross sexual imposition involving a person less than 13 years of age and one count of third-degree misdemeanor sexual imposition involving a person 13 years of age or older but less than 16 years old. The third degree felony counts in the indictment each carry a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison.

Laferty, a former staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, joined TUMC in July 2018 after serving three years as pastor at The United Methodist Church in Nevada, Ohio. He is married and has three daughters, according to his Facebook page.

On March 8, a former member of TUMC contacted the Geauga County Maple Leaf with information that Laferty was removed from his home on or about March 7 and was not allowed to have contact with his family. The person agreed to speak with the Maple Leaf on condition of anonymity.

“The Thompson Methodist Church is trying to cover this up, but the town’s people have a right to know,” the former member said. “The Thompson Police Department along with a few unmarked Chevy Tahoes were at his residence across from Dollar General. They came back later and confiscated some of his belongings.”

The former member was aware of at least one minor victim who is a member of TUMC and said one or more of the church leaders have known about other inappropriate behavior involving Laferty, but have covered it up for years.

“It has torn the church apart,” the former member said. “They don’t want anyone to know, especially the people of Thompson Township or the United Methodist Church District.”

Whether the leaders knew about the sexual battery allegations is unknown, the former member said.

Flaiz said as the investigation is still ongoing, he is unable to comment further on Laferty’s charges at this time.

“An indictment is only a probable cause finding by the grand jury,” his statement said. “A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the State’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation, but not authorized to speak publicly, told the Maple Leaf authorities learned of Laferty’s alleged sexual battery through a current TUMC member who was concerned with how the matter was being handled internally at the church.

In addition, the former member said Laferty has a criminal history and provided the Maple Leaf with a copy of a 2012 sentencing entry filed in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas. According to the entry, Laferty admitted to aggravated trafficking in drugs, a third-degree felony. He was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine to the City of Mansfield Police Department and hand over a Kimber .45 semiautomatic handgun to the state of Ohio. He also was ordered to complete a mental health evaluation and treatment program.

The former member claims some church leaders knew of Laferty’s prior conviction but failed to inform the “majority of the hiring committee” before he was hired in July 2018.

In October 2018, Laferty paid to have the 2012 case record sealed so he could get a passport to go to Jerusalem, the former member said, which he did earlier this year, according to his Facebook page.

The Maple Leaf reached out to the lay leader and president of the church, Steve Roessner, for comment on Laferty’s hiring, current status with the TUMC and the criminal allegations. Roessner, who is a tax map manager in the Geauga County Engineer’s Office, did not respond to a text message requesting comment.

The Maple Leaf also reached out to board member Kirk Fowler for comment. Fowler also did not respond.

Thompson United Methodist Administrative Council released the following statement:

We have recently been made aware of very concerning allegations regarding Pastor Dennis Laferty. Please be aware that we are taking matters very seriously and allowing the appropriate authorities to take action. At this time, we ask that you pray for our church and community, and that answers may be brought in a just manner. Please know that we at Thompson United Methodist Church do not condone any form of harm to any person and we care for all our members. To ensure the protection of our congregation and community Dennis has been suspended as Pastor.

The Geauga Maple Leaf reported:

On March 8, a former member of TUMC contacted the Geauga County Maple Leaf with information that Laferty was removed from his home on or about March 7 and was not allowed to have contact with his family. The person agreed to speak with the Maple Leaf on condition of anonymity.

“The Thompson Methodist Church is trying to cover this up, but the town’s people have a right to know,” the former member said. “The Thompson Police Department along with a few unmarked Chevy Tahoes were at his residence across from Dollar General. They came back later and confiscated some of his belongings.”

The former member was aware of at least one minor victim who is a member of TUMC and said one or more of the church leaders have known about other inappropriate behavior involving Laferty, but have covered it up for years.

“It has torn the church apart,” the former member said. “They don’t want anyone to know, especially the people of Thompson Township or the United Methodist Church District.”

Whether the leaders knew about the sexual battery allegations is unknown, the former member said.

….

In addition, the former member said Laferty has a criminal history and provided the Maple Leaf with a copy of a 2012 sentencing entry filed in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas. According to the entry, Laferty admitted to aggravated trafficking in drugs, a third-degree felony. He was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine to the City of Mansfield Police Department and hand over a Kimber .45 semiautomatic handgun to the state of Ohio. He also was ordered to complete a mental health evaluation and treatment program.

The former member claims some church leaders knew of Laferty’s prior conviction but failed to inform the “majority of the hiring committee” before he was hired in July 2018.

In October 2018, Laferty paid to have the 2012 case record sealed so he could get a passport to go to Jerusalem, the former member said, which he did earlier this year, according to his Facebook page.

The Maple Leaf reached out to the lay leader and president of the church, Steve Roessner, for comment on Laferty’s hiring, current status with the TUMC and the criminal allegations. Roessner, who is a tax map manager in the Geauga County Engineer’s Office, did not respond to a text message requesting comment.

The Maple Leaf also reached out to board member Kirk Fowler for comment. Fowler also did not respond.

On March 13, Geauga County Engineer Joe Cattell told the Maple Leaf that Roessner had been placed on paid administration leave pending an investigation into the matter. Cattell explained his office was investigating whether Roessner’s alleged actions or inactions violated any office policies or procedures.

In a March 11 Facebook post, the Thompson UMC Administrative Council stated Laferty has been suspended as pastor.

“We have recently been made aware of very concerning allegations regarding Pastor Dennis Laferty. Please be aware that we are taking matters very seriously and allowing the appropriate authorities to take action,” the council stated. “At this time, we ask that you pray for our church and community, and that answers may be brought in a just manner. Please know that we at Thompson United Methodist Church do not condone any form of harm to any person and we care for all our members.”

The council also stated that “to ensure the protection of our congregation and community”  Laferty has been suspended as pastor.

Ten years ago, the Mansfield News Journal wrote a feature story about Laferty, then the pastor of Adario United Methodist Church in Shiloh, Ohio:

Dennis Laferty, 29, admits he joined the Marine Corps to run away from his true vocation.

After 71/2 years, three tours in Iraq and various injuries, Laferty was honorably discharged for medical reasons.

Today, he is the senior pastor of the Adario United Methodist Church.

“I planned to stay in the Corps for 20 years and retire,” he said. “But you can’t run away from God.”

He admits he was still running away when he and his wife, Lisa, moved to Tiro in Crawford County after his discharge.

By habit, he and Lisa attended the United Methodist Church.

“But I was still angry. I had no idea what it was like to be a civilian,” he said. “But a lot of love from a lot of people helped.”

But, Pastor Laferty said, church members such as Elvon Pry “took me under their wings.”

The running was over.

Laferty obtained a degree in criminal justice from North Central State College and looks forward to earning a master’s degree in divinity soon.

After some training, he was assigned to the United Methodist Church in Adario. He and Lisa found a small, comfortable home just down the road from the church.

He is a licensed local pastor who can serve communion, perform marriages and funeral services, as well as conduct baptisms and Sunday services.

He has come a long way from the Marine “gym rat” who served in Iraq three times too many.

A native of Mansfield, Laftery attended the local United Methodist church.

“I knew by the sixth grade that the church was where I belonged. But I didn’t want it,” he said.

He met Lisa at Mansfield Senior High School, and the two were married in between his junior and senior years.

They have three children — Jessica, 9; Abigail, 6; and Rebecca, 2 — plus a friendly dog named Alice.

Laferty joined the Corps right out of high school and was trained in logistics. But every time he went to Iraq, he was on the road with the infantry.

Halfway through his third tour, his vehicle was blown up by a mine.

“The engine was blown almost 500 feet away,” he said.

But of the six men on board, only he was seriously injured — with a concussion and broken ribs.

His real problem was a bone cyst in his right arm. Four operations failed to eliminate it, and he was discharged with disability.

He went from a muscular gym rat to a smaller size.

He also had to face reality. The running was over. God, as he said, was calling.

He doesn’t lift weights any more, but he hopes to lift hearts.

“I was appointed to Adario last July. I needed a new ballgame, and I’ve loved every minute of this.”

His congregation has 71 members, and many are elderly. He knows them all.

This is a busy church with several activities, including free meals for people who need them.

His sermons are taken from a few notes he marks down in his small home office.

“I’m no theologian,” Laftery said.

He takes off from there, hoping to reach the members of his congregation.

While his home office is filled with books on theology and the Bible, a Marine Corps sword sits prominently on a table.

Laferty is a man of God, but always a Marine.

Laferty pleaded guilty to two counts of gross sexual imposition.

Fox-8 reported:

A Geauga County pastor has pleaded guilty to sex crimes relating to the abuse of minors.

Under a plea agreement reached Wednesday, Dennis W. Laferty, 37, of Tiro, in Crawford County, could face up to 10 years in prison on the two felony counts of gross sexual imposition to which he pleaded Wednesday, as well as two months in jail on a misdemeanor count of sexual imposition.

He could also be subject to five years of probation upon release and be made to register as a tier II sex offender.

Attorneys have not agreed on a sentence.

Laferty was indicted in March on seven total counts, including five felony counts of sexual battery, one of which was amended to a gross sexual imposition charge in his plea agreement. The other charges were dismissed.

He was released a week after his indictment, after posting 10% of the $100,000 bond ordered in the case.

The offenses to which Laferty pleaded happened between November 2019 and January 2023 in Geauga County, according to his indictment.

In July 2023, Laferty was sentenced to two years in prison for sexually molesting his daughters. Laferty testified:

Your honor, I don’t dispute that I deserve to go to prison, however, I believe that if I went to jail, it would only make a bad situation worse. You’ve read the letters from my daughters and my wife. These are the victims and they do not want me to go to prison,” he told Ondrey. “Instead, they wish to reconcile and move forward. My wife is currently suffering from seizures as a result from having brain surgery and is unable to work. This means they would not be able to pay the mortgage, the car payment or any other bills and lose everything. I ask your honor to show mercy and not sentence me to prison. And if this is your decision, I will continue therapy, I will get a job to support my family and I will do what is required to reconcile with my family, because that is what they want. And I will follow all orders of the court.

The Geauga County Maple Leaf reported:

Geauga County Assistant Prosecutor Christian Bondra saw Laferty’s crimes much differently, recommending a four-year prison term on each count of gross sexual imposition, served consecutively for a total of eight years.

“The state does feel the defendant’s conduct is more serious. It’s our position there was physical harm. We do feel that the digital penetration of a minor would constitute physical harm,” Bondra said. “Counseling services were engaged because of this incident, so the state believes that speaks to the psychological harm and impact to these victims, as well. We also feel the conduct was made more serious given the relationship. (These were) incidents that took place at home, that took place when father was going to pick these children up … there was a familial relationship there that led to and furthered these acts by the defendant.”

Bondra emphasized this was not just one incident with one child, but several incidents with more than one child.

“I would note that … the defendant’s own words of what happened was that he reached his hand into the pants of one of his children and into the pants of another one of his children. What the victims in this case shared was far more gruesome than that, was far more extensive than that,” he said. “That speaks to the defendant’s accountability for these actions, his remorse for these actions. While he sits here today and feels sorry for what he did, we don’t believe he’s still taking full accountability or fully believes everything he did was harmful to these children.”

Bondra acknowledged the letters submitted by the victims, but said it was “somewhat telling” to the state the letters did not really speak of forgiveness, but rather concern for the financial impact of Laferty’s imprisonment.

“The harm and impact to these children is going to continue far past today and into their adult lives. We do believe consecutive sentences are appropriate, your honor,” he concluded. “We believe this was a continuing course of conduct. It was two victims and several different occasions. We would ask the defendant be required to register as a Tier II sex offender.”

Ondrey said he took into consideration Laferty having no prior conviction for offenses of this nature, his service in the marines leading to PTSD, his significant history of mental health challenges, his family’s expressed desire for him to return home as soon as possible, as well as the financial hardship Laferty’s absence would bring his family.

He also considered past sentences for similar offenses, particularly involving father-daughter situations.

The judge said while he does not have sufficient evidence to know whether the victims suffered serious psychological harm, he acknowledges they probably have.

“Lastly, I also have to consider the need for some significant punishment for behaviors that are deemed wholly unacceptable in our society, as you acknowledged today, taking advantage of your relationship with your children and ruining their innocence,” Ondrey said. “No doubt, destroying their faith in you as their father, at least for a period of time.”

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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Updated: Black Collar Crime: Sharon and Donald Windey Sentenced to Years in Prison for Abusing Adopted Children

sharon, donald, and steven windey

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.

In 2018, Sharon Windey was accused of abusing and neglecting her adopted children. Her husband, Donald, and their biological son Steven, were also charged for their part in the abuse.

ABC-2 reported:

A De Pere woman and former Wisconsin State Trooper has been charged with several counts of child abuse and neglect of her adopted children. The abuse allegedly went on for over a decade despite reports to police and officials.

Sharon Windey, 54, appeared in Brown County court Thursday on charges of physical abuse of a child; strangulation and suffocation; battery; child neglect; and mental harm to a child.

A 42-page criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News details years of emotional, physical, and mental abuse inside the Windey home.

The complaint states the investigation found “overwhelming” confirmation that since 2006, there have been Child Protective Services referrals, police contacts and reports from school officials about the three children being victims of physical abuse, mental abuse, child neglect and inappropriate sexual contact in the home on Sullivan Street.

On Feb. 12, 2018, De Pere Police assigned a sergeant to investigate reports of possible abuse at the home where the children lived with Sharon Windey, her husband Donald Windey, and the couple’s 25-year-old son Steven Windey. One of the kids described Steven as a “third parent.”

Investigators started interviewing the three adopted children–a girl aged 15; a girl aged 14; and a boy aged 15.

The kids described being punched, choked, spanked, thrown against a wall, hair pulling, food punishment and exercise punishment.

Both girls said the parents used “excessive feedings of oatmeal” as a punishment. The boy once threw up the oatmeal and the father “made him eat his own vomit and the oatmeal,” reads the complaint. The father told the boy “people were dying in Africa and he needed to eat the puke and oatmeal.”

One of the girls described locks on the freezer, cabinet and pantry.

One girl told investigators that her dad would make her sit on his lap and he would kiss her on the lips. She said he would also touch or grab the girls in other places on their bodies.

She also talked about a punishment in which the kids were forced to strip down to their underwear and kneel in front of a fireplace.

The kids described a shower punishment. If they took a shower longer than seven minutes, they would have to pay money for every minute they go over.

One of the girls said the parents are “very careful” to try not to leave visible marks on them.

The boy described the parents as “delusional … religious freaks.” The boy said his dad hears his guardian angel who tells him what to do.

“They are outgoing and they try to put up the facade of being the perfect family outside of our house,” the boy told investigators. “They will scare us with punishments. They will take things out of our room. For being disrespectful, they will hit them; slap them across the face and stuff. The hitting has happened multiple times.”

The boy described the day of Feb. 11, 2018. He said Donald wanted the kids to go to church but they refused. The father told them to clean everything out of their rooms. One of the girls was denied medicine for not going to church. He said the mom started struggling with one of the girls. During the struggle, the mother was pushed down the stairs. The boy said Steven heard the commotion and charged at him and started to punch him in the head.

The police arrived at the home. The boy said the officers told Sharon and Steven to call the police earlier so it doesn’t escalate to this point. The officers left.

Later there was another fight when when of the girls wanted medicine. After the fight, the kids went to a friend’s home. The man at the home called police to report the abuse.

….

Neither Donald Windey or Steven Windey have been charged. They are identified by name in Sharon Windey’s criminal complaint.

In 2020, Sharon Windey was sentenced to four years in prison for abusing four children over twelve years.

The Green Bay Gazette reported:

A De Pere woman was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday for abusing her adopted children.

A jury found Sharon M. Windey, 56, guilty on eight counts of abusing four children over a span of 12 years. 

Her sentencing came a day after Brown County Circuit Court Judge John Zakowski found her husband, Donald A. Windey, 53, guilty of multiple counts of physical, mental, and sexual abuse of the children.

Their biological son, Steven D. Windey, is scheduled for a plea hearing on Feb. 7 in connection to charges related to his role in the abuse.

One of the three children told investigators that police officers who visited the home on Feb. 11, 2018, did not seem to believe the children’s statements that they’d been hit and choked because their home didn’t appear to be a “typical house for abuse,” according to court documents, because the children appeared to be well-fed and went to a good school. 

According to the criminal complaints and prosecution statements: 

The children were required to do a prayer ritual while standing on one foot wearing nothing but underwear, and were beaten with a belt if they lost their balance and put their foot down.

The girls were forced to strip to their underwear and sit on Donald Windey’s lap and kiss him. They were forced to sleep with Donald Windey in bed when Sharon Windey was away, and he would touch and kiss their intimate parts.

Steven Windey was often the designated enforcer of the physical abuse and put his hands around one of the children’s throat during a Feb. 11 incident.

Donald Windey forced a sick child to eat vomit-covered food after they became ill during a meal.

Sharon Windey used food as a form of punishment — often serving oatmeal for all three meals because the children didn’t like it. 

Sharon and Donald Windey locked kitchen cupboards so the children didn’t have easy access to food.

Donald Windey told the children he was “seeing demons” and “hearing voices” who were telling him to treat the children in this manner and that by doing so he was doing right by God.

Sharon and Donald Windey told the children they didn’t like them anymore and that they could no longer call them mom and dad.

Sharon and Donald Windey donated all of the children’s belongings to Goodwill in February, leaving each child with a bed and five days’ worth of clothes.

Donald WIndey was sentenced to seventeen years in prison on more than a dozen convictions of physically, mentally, and sexually abusing his adopted children.

Channel 2 reported:

A De Pere man convicted of more than a dozen charges of physically, mentally, and sexually abusing his adopted children is now facing 17 years in prison followed by supervision.

Donald Windey was found guilty on felony counts of repeated sexual assault of a child, being party to the crime of physical abuse, strangulation, or suffocation, and four felony counts of causing mental harm to a child.

As Action 2 News has reported, the criminal complaint said children living with Donald and Shirley Windey were inappropriately touched and kissed, as well as physically hurt and given food punishments.

At his sentencing Wednesday, Windey said he was “very sorry for the ways in which I failed as a father.” He said he was sorry for the times he made the children scared, made jokes at their expense, didn’t provide or know the help they needed, and that they didn’t feel the love for him that he felt for them. He said he had to be strict based on their behaviors.

He pointed out he didn’t have a prior criminal record and was involved in his church for years. He said he and his wife have lost everything, including their home, jobs and reputations.

Sharon Windey was sentenced in January to 4 years in prison.

Brown County Judge John Zakowski said at sentencing, “Don, you are a wonderful person, but you can be mean, too. I have seen it.”

He rejected Windey’s claim that the children conspired to tell a story so they could get out of the Windeys’ home, pointing out the kids’ claims went back years.

Zakowski also said he was irritated that the kids were put in this place. He said the Windeys, who believe in corporal punishment, should not have been allowed to foster or adopt these children.

“This should have been red flagged, and then the Windeys wouldn’t have been put in that situation, the kids would have been spared. The system failed. It’s a tragedy of immense proportions,” Judge Zakowski said.

Steven Windey was sentenced to eighteen months probation.

The Green Bay Gazette reported:

A De Pere man will spend 18 months on probation for his role in the abuse of his parents’ adopted children.

Steven D. Windey, 28, was often the designated enforcer during the physical abuse, according to court documents.

In interviews with investigators, the children described a February 2018 incident in which one of the children started arguing with their adoptive mother, former Wisconsin State Trooper Sharon Windey, who tried to push the 15-year-old but the child pushed her away instead.

She called for Steven Windey, who lived at the home, and told him the teen had pushed her down the stairs, according to court documents.

According to the children, Windey chased the child, pushed the child down on the couch, and put his hands around the child’s throat.

One of the children said that although Windey took responsibility for what he did by pleading guilty to battery and disorderly conduct, he should be held to the same standard as his parents, Sharon and Donald Windey.

“I’m sorry you couldn’t be strong enough to resist. I know everyone did what they had to do and your way was to become a puppet,” the child said.

Windey was initially charged with intentionally causing bodily harm to a child but that was reduced to the battery charge.  A felony charge of attempted strangulation and suffocation was dismissed but read in during his sentencing. 

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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Dwayne Waden Accused of Assault

Pastor Dwayne Waden

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.

Dwayne Waden, pastor of Elevated Life International Ministries in High Point, North Carolina, stands accused of assaulting a man and trying to shove his face in a fryer at a local McDonald’s where his wife works.

WFMY-2 reports:

A workplace conflict allegedly ended in assault and the arrest of a High Point, North Carolina, pastor, according to police records.

57-year-old Pastor Dwayne Waden said it all started when his wife got a job at the McDonald’s on South Main Street in High Point back in May.

Latoya Waden complained to her husband on Thursday that employees were disrespecting her, according to a police report, and he came to his wife’s workplace.

“She went to the back to get her keys. When she went to the back to get her keys, a gentleman came from behind, which was a manager, mouthing off at me and disrespecting my wife,” Dwayne said. “I approached him and said, ‘What you’re not going to do is disrespect my wife in front of me.’”

A police report states Dwayne then allegedly pushed the worker’s head toward the deep fryer and punched him in the face. It also states several employees had to pull Waden off the victim, who “suffered a large contusion to the forehead and right eye, along with scratches on his neck.” 

“When I did that he got in my face when he got in my face I pushed him, and when I pushed him he grabbed me so when he grabbed me, we went to tussling and stuff of that nature and the floor was real slippery, so I kind of bear hug him, and when I bear hug him, he punched me in the back of my head. When he punched me in the back of my head, I commenced to swinging,” Dwayne said. 

Officers were able to see footage from a surveillance video of the altercation. Dwayne, whose Facebook profile identifies him as pastor of Elevated Life International Ministries and a semi-truck driver, was arrested on a charge of assault and released on a $1,000 bond.

“My intent was to get my wife, and leave, and get out of that environment,” Dwayne said. 

Dwayne said he regrets how far things went. 

“This is a learning experience going forward. Don’t let people pull you into their chaos moving forward – just walk away,” he said. 

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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Black Collar Crime: Lutheran Pastor Erin Gullickson Convicted of Stealing $80,000 From Church

pastor erin gullickson

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.

Erin Gullickson, pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Meta, North Dakota, was convicted last week of stealing $80,000 from the church.

The Dakotan reports:

A 12-person jury returned a verdict of guilty Tuesday afternoon in the Theft of Property trial of Erin Gullickson, 48, Benedict.  

Gullickson was charged in early May 2023 with taking nearly $80,000 in funds from Our Savior Lutheran Church in Max where she served as reverend. Her involvement included moving $40,000 in church certificates of deposit to an account for her own use and secreting church donations, including checks placed in offering plates, in an account unknown to the church. 

Purchases by Gullickson using church funds included personal items, home furnishings, clothing, jewelry, and a vacation in Italy. Gullickson began depositing and removing funds from a church Youth League account in 2016, an account that she opened without the church’s knowledge. Investigation revealed that $77,310.85 was deposited in the Youth League account until it was discovered and frozen in February 2023. At that time, the balance was $570.10.

….

The trial was brief, starting on Monday and ending Tuesday afternoon. The class B felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set pending a presentence investigation by order of South-Central District Judge Cynthia Feland. 

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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Pastor Jamie Steele Charged With Driving While Impaired

pastor jamie steele

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.

Jamie Steele, pastor of East Taylorsville Baptist Church in Taylorsville, North Carolina, was charged with driving while impaired, reckless driving with wanton disregard, discharging a firearm in city limits, open container of alcohol, damage to property, carrying a concealed weapon, going armed to the terror of the public, driving left of center, exceeding safe speed and unsafe passing.

The Hickory Daily Record reports:

James “Jamie” Oliver Steele, 53, of Taylorsville, is charged with driving while impaired, reckless driving with wanton disregard, discharging a firearm in city limits, open container of alcohol, damage to property, carrying a concealed weapon, going armed to the terror of the public, driving left of center, exceeding safe speed and unsafe passing, Taylorsville police said in a news release.

The crash occurred along West Main Avenue in Taylorsville on Jan. 24. Steele was charged on Friday.

A white Toyota Tacoma truck was traveling west along West Main Avenue shortly before 1 p.m. on Jan. 24, police said. The vehicle veered to the left and struck four utility poles near the intersection of West Main Avenue and Seventh Street SW. The crash broke at least two of the utilities poles and left powerlines strewn across the road, causing the road to be shut down, Taylorsville police said.

While emergency responders were present, the driver of the Tacoma pulled out a semiautomatic pistol, Taylorsville police said. Steele was identified by Taylorsville police as the driver.

“While I was looking at the power lines down, I noticed several first responders and the witnesses running away from the vehicle involved in the accident,” Taylorsville police Lt. Kevin Elder said in the release. “I could hear (Alexander County Sheriff’s Deputy) Caudle yelling on the radio; however, I could not make out what he was saying. I spoke with Adrian Foster who came up to me and he stated that the driver had just pulled out a gun and began to point it at the people around and put the gun to his head.”

Taylorsville police said Steele was threatening to harm himself. Following the crash, the vehicle was surrounded by Taylorsville police officers and the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office deputies, according to the release.

One shot was fired from inside the wrecked vehicle. No one was injured, Taylorsville police said. It was nearly one hour before Steele surrendered to police, Taylorsville police said.

….

West Main Avenue was closed for more than six hours as the utility poles and lines were repaired.

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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Karey Heyward Given Suspended Sentence for Sexual Misconduct with a Minor

karey heyward

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.

In 2019, Karey Heyward, pastor of Eternity Church in North Charleston, South Carolina, was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor. Heyward, a musician, also goes by the name Pastor Sage.

ABC-4 reported:

According to police reports, the female minor and her mother reported ongoing sexual misconduct to officers on March 20, and said it took place between 2012 and 2015.

She said the suspect touched her in sexually inappropriately ways, engaged in inappropriate conversations about sex, and asked her “what would happen if they did have sex,” reports say.

The Moncks Corner man was released on a $100,000 bond after being charged with 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

Heyward’s Linkedin page listed the following information:

  • Senior Pastor at Eternity Ministries
  • Owner/creative director of Genesis 1 Media, LLC a film, video, music, and publication company
  • Law Enforcement with the Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy
  • Founder of a youth organization known as Radical Revolution Ministries that hosts youth events and founded a youth pastors and leadership alliance known as the Holy City Alliance.
  • Specialties: Licensed Minister,Gospel Rapper, cinematographer/editor/director

In 2021, Heyward pleaded guilty to assault and was given a suspended sentence.

The Post and Courier reported:

Months after his arrest on child sex charges, a former North Charleston pastor has pleaded guilty to assault and avoided jail time.

Karey Montrel Heyward, originally charged with third degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 16, pleaded guilty Thursday to second degree assault and battery.

Judge Markley Dennis sentenced Heyward in North Charleston to the maximum penalty of three years in prison, but suspended the punishment to 18 months probation, according to court records.

It’s unclear whether Heyward, who lives in Monck’s Corner, still works in the ministry. He served at Eternity Church in North Charleston when he was arrested in July 2019.

Police records allege that Heyward had inappropriately touched and spoken to a child several times between 2012 and 2015.

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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser