Tag Archive: Black Collar Crime

Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Deacon Charles Sweet Accused of Sex Crimes

charles sweet

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.

Charles Sweet, a former deacon at Hays Hills Baptist Church (a Southern Baptist congregation) in Buda, Texas, was accused in 2012 of sexually abusing a female family member. The investigation was suspended due to concerns over the child’s mental wellbeing. Sweet was excommunicated from the church.  Yesterday, the investigation was reopened as new allegations against Sweet have come to light.

The Hays Free Press reports:

A former Hays Hills Baptist Church deacon is expected to face charges of indecency with a child by contact after authorities accused him of abusing two girls, who are now adults, in the past.

During the course of a joint investigation conducted by Austin Police and the Hays County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), authorities believe “multiple” girls, also now all adults, had also been sexually abused by Charles Sweet, 85, of Austin, over the course of several years.

Sweet has not yet been arrested, according to a KXAN-TV report. Sweet had been a deacon at Hays Hills Baptist Church in the Buda area until he was removed and banned from the church following a 2012 sexual abuse investigation conducted by Austin Police, according to KXAN.

Eric Guevara, a detective with the Austin Police Child Abuse Unit, said the Hays County Sheriff’s Office in January received report from an adult woman who accused Sweet of sexually abusing her when she was younger, Guevara said. The alleged abuse took place in Hays County and in the Austin area.

Guevara, who reopened the 2012 investigation and joined the HCSO in its inquiry, discovered “multiple” girls, who are now adults, were victims of abuse by Sweet. Several women were identified as survivors during the course of their investigation, Guevara said.

The alleged incidents occurred from the early 1990’s and into the 2000’s. Guevara said Sweet’s “target age” was prepubescent children ranging from 6 to 12-years old. All victims in the case are female.

During that time period, Sweet was affiliated with Hays Hills and also conducted ministry work outside of the church at a location in Hays County.
That ministry work involved bible study, tutoring and general care for young children.

Charles Sweet is in his 80s. I have no doubt that if investigators dig deep enough they are going to find numerous victims. It wouldn’t shock me to find out that he has been messing with children for decades.

Update

The Statesman reports:

A former Hays County deacon turned himself in Thursday to be booked into the Travis County Jail on two charges of indecency with a child.

Charles Sweet, 85, has since been released from jail after posting a bond toward his $100,000 bail, Austin police officials said.

Sweet is also being investigated in connection with several other allegations of sexual abuse against young girls in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Austin police and church officials have said.

….

Police reopened the investigation into Sweet in January when they learned of other potential victims in Hays County, who said he abused them when they were children.

In one of those reports, a woman told police that Sweet repeatedly touched her genitals when she was between 4 and 6 years old while attending youth ministries for the Hays Hills church in Buda. She said the abuse occurred more than 100 times, documents say. She said she also was abused at Sweet’s residence in Austin, where she would go after church on Sundays, the affidavits say.

Austin police said Sweet was brought in for questioning in May and he admitted to sexually abusing several young children in the early 2000s, including the woman who made the report. He said he loved the victim and did not plan the abuse, but had done it “subconsciously” and suffered from either sex addiction or “uncontrollable impulse control,” arrest affidavits say.

 

Black Collar Crime: Independent Baptist Worship Pastor Kurt Stephens Busted in Prostitution Sting

kurt stephens

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.

Kurt Stephens, the pastor for worship and administration at Palmetto Baptist Church in Piedmont, South Carolina, was arrested earlier this month in a prostitution sting. Palmetto Baptist quickly scrubbed Stephens from their website, but he lives on in cached Google pages. Stephens’ church bio states:

Kurt Stephens has served as the Pastor for Worship and Administration at Palmetto Baptist Church since its start in 2010. Kurt’s primary role is to lead in executing plans and programs that support the mission and vision of the church. Kurt also oversees the operations of the church relating to finance, facilities, and building plans.

Prior to joining the church planting team at Palmetto, Kurt served as the Operations Manager at SoundForth Music for four years. In addition to his role at SoundForth, Kurt also worked for two years as Account Manager at Your Creative People, a digital branding firm in the upstate. He previously served as Worship Pastor for a combined total of eighteen years at Oakwood Baptist Church, Anderson, SC; and Berean Baptist Church, Lilburn, GA.

As part of the leadership team, Kurt teaches, pastors, and leads Palmetto in heartfelt worship. His desire is to win unbelievers, and strengthen, encourage, and support the hands of those who serve through music and the Word. Kurt and his wife, ****, are the proud parents of three children: *****.

According to LinkedIn, Stephens is a graduate of Bob Jones University.

Based on a cursory review of information available on the Internet, I have concluded that Palmetto Baptist is an Independent Baptist congregation.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Daniel Heath Faces State and Federal Sex Crime Charges

pastor daniel heath

Daniel Heath, the associate pastor of First Baptist Church — affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship — in Wilson, North Carolina, stands accused of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and coercion and enticement of a minor. The Wilson Times reports:

A Wilson pastor and a volunteer youth baseball coach accused of sexual exploitation of a minor now faces a federal charge in connection to the case.

A Texas grand jury indicted 33-year-old Daniel Franklin Heath on one count of coercion and enticement of a minor, according to a unsealed federal indictment obtained by The Wilson Times. That indictment was handed down Wednesday. Heath, a former associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Wilson, was arrested a day earlier on the charge of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

According to the Texas federal indictment, Heath used an LG model cellphone to “persuade, induce, entice and coerce,” a minor to “engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of creating a visual depiction of such conduct, knowing that such depiction would transmitted in interstate and foreign commerce.”

Federal authorities say activity occurred from December of 2017 until April 11 of this year, according to the indictment out of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas Sherman Division. Heath could face 10 years to life in prison if convicted on the federal charge.

….

Heath’s arrest warrant in Wilson alleges that he did “encourage” a 16-year-old girl to “engage in sexual activity, perform sexual activities to herself for the purpose of producing material containing a visual representation depicting this activity, the defendant knowing the character and content of the performance and material.”

Church members were also seated inside the courtroom Friday.

Heath is currently being held on a $500,000 secured bond in the Wilson County Detention Center.

….

The Federal Bureau of Investigation contacted the Wilson Police Department in April regarding Heath, who was the subject of an ongoing investigation, officials have said.

On Tuesday, the police department’s FBI Task Force detective assisted FBI agents in executing a search warrant at Heath’s home in Wilson, according to officials. Based upon evidence gathered at the scene, authorities arrested and charged Heath on that same day.

Black Collar Crime: Methodist Pastor John McFarland Accused of Sex Crimes

pastor john mcfarland

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.

John McFarland, pastor of Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton, California, stands accused of sexually assaulting seven children. Prior to his tenure at  Orangethorpe, McFarland was the pastor of Surf City Church in Huntington Beach from 2011 to 2016, Fountain Valley United Methodist Church in Fountain Valley from 1988 to 2016, and from 1981 to 1988, he was the pastor of Calexico United Methodist Church in Calexico — all located in California. McFarland was also a chaplain for 20 years for the Fountain Valley Police Department until his retirement a few years ago.

A press release from the office of the District Attorney of Orange County states:

A man who served as a head pastor at several Southern California churches faces 11 child molestation charges for victimizing seven children ranging in age from five to 15 years old.

John Rodgers McFarland, 67, of Fullerton was arrested on May 9, 2019. He is charged with seven felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14, and four felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor between the ages of 14 and 15.

Prosecutors allege the molestations for the current offenses occurred between 2003 and 2017.

McFarland is currently being held on $2 million bail at the Orange County Jail. He faces a maximum sentence of 179 years to life if convicted on all counts.

KTLA reports:

The defendant was previously arrested on suspicion of child molestation in Escondido last December after a girl came forward to report the alleged abuse, according to the Fountain Valley Police Department.

During the investigation into that case, police said they uncovered “evidence that McFarland abused other victims.”

He was arrested again Thursday, according to the DA’s office.

McFarland is suspected of abusing the children between 2003 and 2017, during which time he served as a pastor at several churches in Orange and San Diego counties, prosecutors said.

Should Religiously Motivated Good Behavior Play a Part in Sentencing, Commutation, Clemency, or Parole?

donnie johnson

Seventh-day Adventist minister Donnie Johnson

In 1984, Donnie Johnson brutally murdered his wife by stuffing a 30-gallon trash bag down her throat until she suffocated. The Commerical Appeal reported last week:

More than a year and a half before her death, Connie Johnson had purchased a life insurance policy with Donnie Johnson as primary beneficiary, according to legal documents. After Connie Johnson’s death, both Donnie Johnson and a sister made claims for $50,000.

In 1984, Donnie Johnson was working at Force Camping Center in Memphis. Connie Johnson had worked there too until about 18 months before her death, according to a newspaper article, when she decided to stop because her daughter was entering school.

It was there that Donnie Johnson killed his wife, suffocating her by shoving a plastic bag down her throat. A Shelby County medical examiner said during the trial that she had cuts and bruises on her head, that she bled internally and had fought back.

“There was testimony that she would have been conscious during the terrifying ordeal and that from one to four minutes would have elapsed before she expired,” wrote Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William Harbison in an opinion affirming the judgement of the trial court. “The homicide was inhuman and brutal to an almost indescribable degree.”

Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death. He is scheduled for execution this Thursday.

Thirty years ago, Jimmy Pitt started a Seventh-day Adventist Bible study at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. Johnson was one of his converts (1985). Johnson later became a Seventh-day Adventist minister, and currently leads Bible studies at the prison and ministers to other inmates who are on death row.

Now that Johnson’s date for meeting the Grim Reaper is approaching, several Christian zealots have been working hard to keep the convicted murderer alive. Why? He is a new man in Christ Jesus. That’s right. J-e-s-u-s, the man, myth, and legend, who purportedly washes all sins away through his blood. Never mind the fact that the Bible says several times that murderers shall NOT inherit the kingdom of God. Mustn’t let the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God get in the way of a feel-good story; a story of redemption.

Furman F. Fordham II, pastor of Riverside Chapel Seventh-day Church in Nashville, Tennessee, told the Tennessean:

He [convicted murderer Donnie Johnson] has been leading and serving in such a way that what he’s doing in there is the exact kind of ministry that we would definitely ordain someone for out here.

I was accustomed to being at different churches where you’d have a prison ministry, but I had never seen one of the prisoners leading it. We were his assistants.

The wife of the late Jimmy Pitt said of Johnson:

Don is one of those people that is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he will share that with any and everybody that gives him an opportunity.

I used to be fairly set on if you did the crime, you pay the price. I really would love for him to get clemency of some sort because there’s always forgiveness.

Pastor Fordham believes Johnson should be spared due to his decades-long religious transformation:

Transformation is real. This is a new gentlemen. He just is. And I think that there should be room for that caveat to be considered and I think that is why in our state constitution the governor can press pause.

Should jailhouse conversion be grounds for sentence commutation, clemency, or parole?  Would a Muslim, atheist, humanist, witch, or pagan inmate be afforded the same opportunities? How many death row inmates have Pastor Fordham and his merry band of Christians advocated for in the past? Or is their advocacy predicated on Johnson being on their team?

I am a pacifist. On principle, I oppose the death penalty, period. That said, when Governors and parole boards are considering sentence commutation, clemency, or parole, there should be a strict separation of church and state. Religious conversion is quite easy to fake. What’s the empirical standard by which to judge whether someone is “really” a born-again, saved-by-the-blood Christian? Can their good works ever ameliorate the brutality of their crimes?

I support the commutation of Donnie Johnson’s sentence, but not because he is a super-duper, oh-so-awesome Christian. He could be a Muslim terrorist for all I care, or a Baptist. I oppose state-sanctioned murder, be it in prison kill houses or on the battlefields in the Middle East. That the followers of Jesus can’t come to such a conclusion is, in my opinion, astounding and in direct contradiction to what the Bible teaches on the matter.

Johnson’s son, Jason, sees his devoutly religious father in different light, saying: “He’s an evil human being. He can talk Christianity and all that. “That is all my father is. That’s all he’s ever been, is a con man.”

pastor david richards jr

David Richards Jr, pastor of My Father’s House Church of God in Lenoir City, Tennessee.

Sometimes, judges let convicted criminals off easy because of their supposed love for JESUS before they committed their crimes. Take David Richards Jr, pastor of My Father’s House Church of God in Lenoir City, Tennessee. Richards was convicted of repeatedly raping his 14-year-old daughter. Prosecutors argued the severity and heinous nature of the crimes deserved a minimum of seventy-two years in prison, but the judge thought otherwise and gave Richards a 12-year prison sentence. Judge Steven Sword defended his light sentence by extolling all the good things Richards did in the community, including starting a Bible study while in jail awaiting trial. Again, would a “good” atheist, Muslim, humanist, or pagan receive similar treatment?

Sword gave Richards this sentence, even after hearing him refuse to take responsibility for his crimes. Instead, Johnson blamed his daughter:

I stand before you convicted of crimes I did not commit. I simply believe the system just erred in this case. I’m not sure why I’m here. . . but I assume it’s for His [the Christian God’s] purpose.

The Knoxville News reports:

David Richards took the stand in his own defense, painting his accuser as a defiant teenager who first made her allegations of sexual abuse amid his attempts to impose strict rules for his children.

Forensics found Richards’ semen on the victim’s bed frame, leaving little doubt that he was guilty. Jurors agreed, convicting Richards on nine felony counts, including rape, incest and sexual battery by an authority figure.

David Thompson, Richards’ fellow pastor at My Father’s House, doesn’t believe he’s guilty:

I find it impossible for me to believe he’s guilty of this. His business needs him. His family needs him. Our church needs him.

In fact, over thirty fellow church members packed the courthouse to show their love and resolute support Richards.

How do we explain their continued support of Richards even after hearing testimony that put Richards’ penis in the vicinity of the victim’s bed? Some reports have suggested that Richards’ daughter was “rebellious,” and this necessarily proves she is lying or trying to get even with her father. However, the knowledge that My Father’s House is a Fundamentalist Christian congregation should cause anyone buying this argument to ponder for a moment the fact that “rebellion” in such congregations is defined very differently from the way in which the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world define it. As former inmates at Baptist group homes such as New Bethany or Roloff Homes can attest, rebellion was defined as any act of disobedience, including skipping church, not reading the Bible or praying, going to movies, smoking, drinking beer, having sex, or listening to rock music. I suspect that the victim’s “rebellion” is far different from the behaviors that land teens in criminal detention centers. Whatever it might have been, it must be viewed through the lens of his or her religious background. And even then, her supposed bad behavior should play no part in discussions about her father’s crimes. That some of Richards’ fellow Christians are bringing the victim’s ill-behavior up suggests that they are straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel in hopes of finding justification for their unwillingness to believe their pastor could be a rapist. Can anyone say cognitive dissonance?

The victim, Amber Richards, had this to say about her father:

I wanted to throw my body away. Not a day goes by that I don’t, in some way, think of what he did to me. . . I firmly believe if given the opportunity, he would victimize another young girl.

Too bad thirty-plus members of My Father’s House and their pastor David Thompson didn’t hear a word Amber Richards had to say.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Worker Steven Winn Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing Church Teen

steven winn

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  February 2018, Steven Winn, an unpaid youth worker at Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas, was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a church teenager.

WFAA-8 reported at the time:

Police in Mesquite have arrested a youth pastor’s assistant at a local church and charged him with sexually assaulting a child.

On Feb. 18, police received a report about the sexual assault. Their investigation concluded that Steven Winn, 33, had an ongoing sexual relationship with a teenager for just over a year. She was 15 when the relationship began and 16 when police got involved.

Police said Tuesday that Winn is the assistant youth pastor at Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite. The victim was a student at the church’s Christian school, police said.

Pastor Bob Ross with the church said Winn was never employed by the church and was a volunteer who served as an assistant to the youth pastor.

“Mr. Winn’s primary duties consisted of helping to drive our teens to various activities such as camp, youth rallies, and summer camp,” Ross said. “He had no official duties or title of any kind.”

Police say Winn worked for the City of Mesquite as a construction inspector in the Public Works Department for 14 years. He was terminated on Feb. 20.

Two days later he was arrested and charged with three counts of sexual assault of a child in Dallas County. His bond was set at $25,000 for each count. A few days later he was charged with three counts of sexual assault of a child in Kaufman County. His bond there was set at $1,000 for each count.

Police say sexual encounters between Winn and the teen occurred in both counties. There were multiple occurrences in each, but prosecutors settled on three cases to charge, MPD said.

Today, Winn pleaded guilty to three counts of sexually abusing a child and was sentenced to four years in prison. After release, Winn will have to register as a sex offender.  According to the Dallas News, Winn still faces one count of sexual assault of a child in Kaufman County. He was indicted on the charge last month.

larry winn

Several days after Steven Winn’s arrest, Larry Winn, Steven’s father, was also arrested on sexual assault charges. The elder Winn was the bus director at Open Door — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

The Star-Telegram reported at the time:

A Mesquite church staff member accused of an inappropriate sexual relationship with an underage congregant may have additional victims, police say.

Larry Winn, 65, of Dallas, who coordinated a bus ministry for members of Open Door Baptist Church who needed a ride to and from worship, is accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl [a different girl from the one assaulted by his son]. He was arrested Thursday.

“Due to Winn’s level of access to children, investigators believe there may be additional victims,” police Lt. Brian Parrish said in a news release.

The elder Winn remains free on a $25,000 bond. Evidently, the family that “preys” together, stays together.

pastor robert ross

Robert “Bob” Ross, the pastor of Open Door, was arrested in April 2018 and charged with failing to report the alleged abuse. He remains free on a $2,500 bond.

The Dallas News reported at the time:

Robert Arnold Ross, 70, pastor of Open Door Baptist Church, was booked into the Mesquite jail Tuesday morning on one count of knowingly failing to make a required child abuse report. His bail was set at $2,500.

….

Police say Ross learned about the abuse on Feb. 1 — more than two weeks before police learned of the accusation — and did not notify authorities.

pastor matt jarrell

And finally, in 2011, Matt Jarrell, Open Door’s pastor at the time, was arrested and accused of raping a woman. He later hung himself in jail.

According to the Star-Telegram:

Open Door Baptist Church pastor Matt Jarrell died in May 2011 in a Charleston, W. Va., jail cell. Days before, Jarrell had been arrested and accused of raping a woman.

The woman told authorities Jarrell picked her up in Charleston when she needed a ride home. Instead of taking her home, he took her to a secluded area and raped her, according to a criminal complaint.

….

The Dallas News reported in 2011 that Jarrell lived a double life while pastoring Open Door Baptist:

Baptist preacher Matt Jarrell was a traveling man. He usually hit the road by himself, leaving behind his wife, four children and the loving embrace of his congregation at the Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite.

Jarrell, a bear of a man at 6-3 and 285 pounds, hunted moose and preached a sermon last fall in Alaska. He hunted elk in Nebraska with church friends.

But his travels weren’t always for hunting and fellowship.

In 2003, Jarrell traveled to Baltimore, where he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute and illegal handgun possession.

In 2007, San Antonio police arrested him for sexual assault after a woman accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex.

Last weekend, Jarrell’s final trip ended tragically in a jail cell in Charleston, W.Va. Two days after his arrest on a rape charge, he hanged himself in jail. At age 41, the double life he had been leading was over.

….

Like other Baptist sects, the fundamentalist churches don’t allow women in leadership positions. While Open Door Baptist Church has no dress code, most church women wear long dresses or skirts and tops with high necks — no sleeveless tops.

“It’s just respecting the Lord,” said Donna Woodson, an Open Door member for more than 20 years. “It’s nothing … we just feel that we should dress in modest apparel.”

Woodson, 57, said Jarrell was respectful of women.

“He seemed like he really loved his wife, Ginny,” she recalled. “So I’m just shocked to hear any of this stuff. I’m not even sure to believe it.”

Jarrell traveled to Columbus, Ohio, in January to deliver a guest sermon at High Street Baptist Church, another Fundamentalist Baptist affiliate. He began by telling the congregation his personal story of salvation in the mid-1990s.

He was in the Army at Fort Campbell, Ky., when he attended a revival meeting featuring the Baptist preacher Jack Hyles, who was a well-known Baptist evangelist in the Midwest.

“I’m carnal, wicked as hell,” Jarrell told the Ohio congregation, describing the way he was back then. “I used to be a fighter until I got saved that night.”

….

Jarrell’s first brush with the law, as far as The Dallas Morning News can determine, came at 11:40 p.m. on April 15, 2003, in Baltimore, about 60 miles south of York.

Court records and police reports say he solicited a prostitute who turned out to be an undercover police officer running a “john sting.” Police found two handguns in Jarrell’s white Chevrolet truck — a .44-magnum Taurus with a laser sight and a .45-caliber pistol with one round in the chamber and five in the magazine.

Shonte Drake, a spokeswoman for the city prosecutor, said available records don’t make clear whether Jarrell pleaded guilty or was found guilty after a trial.

“In any event, he was convicted and served 18 months probation on the handgun charge,” Drake said.

….

Jarrell’s next brush with the law came in San Antonio on May 24, 2007, when he was arrested after a woman complained that he threatened her with “force and violence” unless she performed oral sex on him. She told police she believed he had “the ability to execute the threat” because he was so big, according to court records.

Jarrell was released from jail on $50,000 bond.

….

A Bexar County grand jury meeting in San Antonio indicted him on a second-degree felony charge of sexual assault on Dec. 19, 2007. Jarrell’s attorney told The News that the case is still pending because of a backlog in the criminal courts.

….

The details surrounding Jarrell’s arrest in West Virginia now seem almost irrelevant. But, for the record, the criminal complaint against him alleges that he met a woman in a bar. She needed a ride home and he offered to help. Instead, he took her to a remote area and sexually abused her in his Toyota Tundra pickup.

The woman escaped after the attack and called police. Investigators said Jarrell first denied the assault, then confessed.

“According to family members, Jarrell was supposed to be in Pennsylvania,” said Lt. Sean Crozier, a Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department spokesman. “It’s disturbing that a man could lead such a dual life with aspects of it on opposite ends of the spectrum — if the allegations were true.”

No one will ever know what tortured thoughts ran through Matt Jarrell’s mind in the moments before he hanged himself two days after his arrest.

Did he pray? Did he believe he was going to heaven or hell?

During the nine months before his death, he told his congregation that he was suffering from liver cancer. During his sermon in January in Columbus, he told his listeners that a malignant tumor the size of a grapefruit was on his liver and that the cancer had spread to his lymph system.

The medical examiner’s office in West Virginia performed an autopsy after his suicide, but the results were not available late last week. Whether the cancer was real or fictional is yet to be resolved.

….

Sadly, Open Door Baptist Church remains open for business, as does its school, Mesquite Baptist Academy. In November 2018, “Dr.” Eric Pittman became the pastor of Open Door.  The church is busily remodeling its building, hoping to bury past scandals under new drywall and carpet. I plan to do what I can to make sure the public knows what happened. I should note in passing, that the late Jack Hyles was mentioned in several of the stories I read about Open Door and its pervert pastors/workers.  It seems that Hyles as a person or his bankrupt theology is never far from sexual scandals. Perhaps it is time for IFB churches and pastors to connect the dots and conclude that Hyles and his theology has caused untold harm, both to children and adults.

Black Collar Crime IFB Pastor Garry Evans’ Trial Scheduled to Start in September

pastor garry evans

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 October 2017, I posted a story detailing sexual abuse allegations against Garry Evans, pastor of Rushville Baptist Temple in Rushville, Indiana.  Rushville Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

RTV-6 reported at the time:

A 72-year-old pastor in Rush County is accused of molesting multiple young children in his congregation.

Garry Evans, Pastor of the Rushville Baptist Temple was arrested Wednesday evening during a traffic stop.

According to court documents, the investigation began after a 3-year-old child who attends the church told her mother that Evans had taken her into his office to give her candy then “pulled his pants down” and made her touch his genitals.

Shortly after the investigation began another mother came forward saying her 7-year-old and 5-year-old claimed they had also been touched by the pastor. Both girls told investigators that “The Pastor” gives the kids candy when they go into his office alone, and touches them or makes them touch him. The youngest girl told investigators that it started happening after she started kindergarten in August.

And another mother with two young girls at the church also came forward with a similar story.

Rushville Police Chief Craig Tucker said a woman also came forward and said she had been molested by Evans decades ago, in a different community. That woman helped police pursue the new cases, but it is unclear if charges can be sought in hers.

Evans is charged with three counts of child molestation, four counts of sexual battery and five counts of child solicitation. He is currently being held without bond at the Rush County Jail.

….

In November 2017, the Rushville Republican reported:

The Rush County Prosecutor’s Office filed more charges Thursday against Garry Evans, the Pastor of the Rushville Baptist Temple Church. The new charges stem from allegations from a new alleged victim, identified in Court filings as a six-year-old. The new charges include Child Molesting, a Level 4 Felony, and Child Solicitation, a Level 5 Felony.

Evans previously was charged with Child Molesting, Child Solicitation, and Sexual Battery involving five alleged victims. Evans posted the $20,000 bond soon after it was set by the Judge. Along with the new charges, the Prosecutor filed a motion to increase Evans’ original bond. Rush County Prosecutor Phil Caviness explained that the fact that these charges bring the number of alleged victims to six justifies a higher bond than the standard Level 4 Felony case, and added that his office was seeking Evans to be monitored by the Rush County Community Corrections Program if he is released on bond. “We feel that given the charges, GPS monitoring and protective orders for all of the alleged victims and their families are important conditions of bond in this case,” Caviness said.

Court documents indicate that these new alleged incidents occurred sometime between the Fall of 2016 and Summer, 2017, but were disclosed after the first charges were filed against Evans. Trial for these charges currently is scheduled to begin on Feb. 20, 2018.

After these latest charges were filed, Evans attempted to commit suicide.

In February 2018, Evans was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. His wife was also arrested. The Herald-Tribune reported at the time:

A report of criminal trespass received by the Rushville Police Department Jan. 29 led to the arrest of Pastor Garry Evans, 72, and his wife Gay Evans, 70.

The elder Evans had been released from jail after posting a $20,000 bond following his initial arrest in October 2017 regarding a number of allegations of inappropriate activity with minors, according to earlier editions of the Rushville Republican. A condition of his bond required that Evans be placed on GPS monitoring by the court.

Although innocent until proven guilty, Evans was initially charged last fall with three counts of child molestation, a Level 4 felony; four counts of sexual battery, a Level 5 felony; and five counts of child solicitation, a Level 6 felony.

Additional allegations and charges were filed with the courts in November 2017 when another minor child came forward. Following the second arrest, Evans, the longtime pastor of the Rushville Baptist Temple, unsuccessfully attempted to take his own life and, as a result, was hospitalized for an extended period of time.

The couple’s most recent legal troubles began when the pair appeared Jan. 28 at a Rushville residence stating they wished to see a family member they believed to be inside. The tenant reported they would not leave until they spoke with the individual. The tenant and complainant in the case informed the Evanses that they were not welcome at the property and needed to leave. The couple refused and demanded to speak with the relative.

Following several attempts to get them to leave, the complainant stated that she felt threatened and retreated into the residence, where she retrieved a firearm. The woman returned to the door and again told the couple to leave, but they refused. At this time, Gay Evans attempted unsuccessfully to take the firearm from the resident. The complainant then locked herself inside and stowed the firearm.

A few moments later, the resident observed Garry and Gay Evans looking in a vehicle on the property. The complainant then chased the pastor and his wife off her property with a baseball bat.

As a result of the incident, warrants were issued for the arrest of Garry Evans and Gay Evans for criminal trespass, a Class A misdemeanor.

The pair were taken into custody Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 30. During the course of the arrest, Gay Evans became verbally abusive and physically resistant toward officers and as a result was additionally charged with resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor.

….

Last week, the Rushville Republican reported that Evans’ trial was moved from April to September 2019.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Les Hughey Accused of Additional Sex Crimes

les hughey

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.

A year ago, I posted a story detailing sexual abuse allegations against Les Hughey, pastor of Highlands Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. The alleged sexual abuse occurred decades ago while Hughey was youth pastor at First Baptist Church (now Crosspoint Community Church) in Modesto, California. This revelation forced Hughey to resign as pastor of Highlands Church. At the time, Hughey release the following statement:

Over 40 years ago, as a church intern in California, I sinned and harmed the most important relationships in my life. I was unfaithful to my God, my wife, and the ministry, and was rightly removed from that church.

I engaged in consensual relations with fellow college-aged staff. With God’s help, my wife’s forgiveness, and discipline and counseling from church authority, I sincerely repented and we put our lives back in order. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to undo what happened, so I instead accept and live with the consequences, even now so many years later.

My family and the authority over me at my church are aware of this history. I thank God for his forgiveness and grace.

Pastor Les Hughey

Hughey, according to the Arizona Republic, lied about the victim being “college-aged staff.” The Republic reported at the time:

Carey Fuller was shocked to see the news about Hughey. For decades, she thought she had been the only one to receive one of what Fuller called his “famous full-body massages.” That massage crossed the line when he groped her genitals, she told The Republic.

Hughey, then a youth group leader at Scottsdale Bible Church, was attractive and charismatic, Fuller recounted. He was married and in his late 20s at the time, she said.

“Everyone always wanted to be around him,” she said. “It was always a gift to be around Les.”

Fuller said she was honored to be selected as one of the few who were invited to hang out in the church van one night during a mission trip to Mexico when she was 18.

She happily accepted when Hughey offered her one of his “famous” massages, but she didn’t know what to do when it suddenly went too far, Fuller said. Somehow, no one noticed in the van’s dim light, so she figured it had must have been an accident.

“I wasn’t a strong enough person and I didn’t want to offend anyone there,” Fuller said. “I didn’t think to call him out, so I just laid there.”

Fuller said she didn’t realize that what had happened to her was sexual assault until she saw an article on azcentral.com Sunday.

Within hours, she learned at least five other women she had known during her time in the youth group said they had experienced the same thing, she said.

Her best friend, Juliet Buckner Pekaar, was one of them.

Hughey pulled the same “massage” ruse when they would travel together on band trips when she was 16, Buckner Pekaar said. The abuse continued until she married another youth pastor at the church when she was 19.

“His power was in making you think you were the only one,” Buckner Pekaar said. “Nobody ever talked to each other, so there was just this shame and depression.”

Neither of the women reported the incidents to police, they said.

Buckner Pekaar said she did attempt years ago to tell Scottsdale Bible Church staff members about Hughey’s actions, but she said she stopped after their reaction made it clear they weren’t interested.

I concludes the April 2018 post with this: Dare I ask the proverbial rhetorical question: can a leopard change its spots? According to a May 4, 2019 story by Erin Tracy in the Modesto Bee, the answer to this question is a resounding NO! Tracy writes:

A Modesto youth pastor accused of sexual abuse in his church here decades ago continued to prey on young women after moving to Arizona, a Scottsdale police report issued this week alleges.

The 100-page report compiled by Scottsdale Police Detective Tara Ford contains interviews with more than a dozen victims and witnesses who described sexually predatory behavior, including full-body massages, by Les Hughey during his time as a high school youth pastor at Scottsdale Bible Church in the mid to late 1980s.

The report was submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney several weeks ago for consideration of charges against Hughey, said Scottsdale Police Sgt. Ben Hoster. The county attorney’s office did not return calls for comment about what charges Hughey could face.

The investigation began last April after The Bee broke the story about Hughey’s alleged sexual misconduct during the time that he worked as a youth pastor at a popular church in Modesto.

Scottsdale police conferred with Modesto police on the investigation, but no reports were filed here.

Hughey, in his 30s and 40s at the time under investigation in Arizona, would tell dirty jokes and stories and normalized back rubs among the youth so it didn’t seem inappropriate when he requested massages from the teenage girls, some as young as 15, according to the report.

He was able to get the job at Scottsdale Bible Church and work at several other churches before that because his alleged sexual abuse of girls at First Baptist Church in Modesto was covered up, according to a victim and two witnesses. First Baptist has since become CrossPoint Church.

Tracy Epler told The Bee last year that Hughey was her youth pastor at First Baptist in the late 1970s, when he coerced her into having sex when she was a 17-year-old virgin.

Four other women at First Baptist said Hughey would give them back rubs that bordered on fondling.

Epler confided in church leaders, but instead of an investigation, Hughey got what Epler described as a hero’s sendoff, a “one-man Academy Awards show.”

Hughey went on to work at churches in Sonora and Little Rock, Arkansas, before working at Scottsdale Bible Church for about a decade prior to founding Highlands Church, also in Scottsdale.

Hughey created what victims and witnesses interviewed by Scottsdale police described as a cult-like culture during his time as a youth pastor at Scottsdale Bible Church.

They described Hughey as charismatic and charming, the “life of the party.” He sang and played the guitar in a band and had a “sort of celebrity status and a way of drawing people in.”

They also described a man who could be cutting, tempestuous and narcissistic.

….

Hughey preached purity but created a sexually charged environment, according to victims and witnesses. Back rubs among the youth were encouraged, and sexual jokes were common.

Hughey used choir and mission trips to begin physical contact with the girls through full-body massages. This is how the grooming started, several of the women said.

All of the women interviewed said that within the youth group there was an “in crowd,” Hughey’s “inner circle,” that got to stay up late with him during mission and choir trips and sit up front with him in the van he’d drive on the trips.

Fuller said she wanted nothing more than to be part of Hughey’s inner circle, to be “one of the cool kids.” Being invited at night into his van, which he’d sleep in during the trips, was like “reaching the pinnacle.”

The first and last time Fuller accepted an invitation to his van, she was one of his staff during a trip to Mexico in 1989. There were others in the van, but it was dark.

Fuller said she gave Hughey a back massage and then they switched. Hughey started at her feet, worked his way up her legs, and touched her vagina through her shorts and underwear, according to the report. She jumped, then froze, and Hughey moved his hands back to her calves. She thought it must have been an accident, but then Hughey made his way back up her legs, rubbing her buttocks and in between her thighs.

Fuller said she doesn’t remember how it ended or how she got back to her bed.

“The next day, she didn’t want to see him, talk to him or make eye contact with him,” the report reads.

While it pained her to do it because she was “blackballed” from the group, Fuller quit upon their return to Scottsdale.

The physical contact often would start with the girls giving Hughey massages. He was usually wearing only shorts or swim trunks and would instruct them to straddle him and massage his buttocks and thighs, then eventually he’d tell them to lie down so he could give them a massage, according to the report.

During her interviews with Scottsdale police, Jennifer Parrella described hearing about “Les’ famous massages” before she experienced one inside Hughey’s van during a mission trip to Mexico when she was 15.

She said there was another male staffer there as well as a teenage boy and that they were all making fun of her because Hughey had to instruct her on what to do.

When Hughey massaged Parrella, she said, she remembers feeling “he was heavy on top of me” and that he touched the side of her breasts.

Juliete Buckner Pekaar said Hughey massaged her on several occasions during church functions and after babysitting at his home. One of the incidents occurred during a choir trip to California. During the trip, they were staying at a cabin when Hughey gave her a massage.

“He sat on her butt, unlatched her bra, and then started touching the sides of her breasts, and then touched her at the groin area, before actually touching her vagina outside her clothing,” Ford’s report reads.

None of the women reported having sex with Hughey, although one said her memories of that time are too repressed to know for sure whether she did. She also was being molested by her father and said she was “the perfect target for Les.”

Hughey resigned as senior pastor of Highlands, the church he founded, days after The Bee broke stories about Hughey’s behavior at both First Baptist Church and Prescott Bible Church.

 

 

Black Collar Crime: Orthodox Presbyterian John Earnest Shoots Up Jewish Synagogue

john earnest

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.

John Earnest is a committed member of Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Escondido, California.  The Calvinistic church is affiliated with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) — a Fundamentalist denomination. Earnest’s father in an elder in the Escondido church. On April 27, 2019, John Earnest entered a Jewish synagogue and opened fire, killing one worshiper and wounding several others.

CNN reports:

John T. Earnest, the accused synagogue shooter, may have summed it up best himself.

“If you told me even 6 months ago that I would do this I would have been surprised,” he allegedly wrote in an online manifesto before last weekend’s attack on the Chabad synagogue near San Diego.

On Tuesday, Earnest entered a not guilty plea in court. Wearing glasses and dark blue jail-issued clothes, the 19-year-old was assigned a public defender as he faces one count of murder, a count of arson of a house of worship and three counts of attempted murder.

He will be held without bail while investigators, family and friends continue to piece together Earnest’s baffling, and seemingly sudden, departure from the world he once knew.

How, and when, they wonder, did the piano playing, academic overachiever from a churchgoing family of lifeguards, go so wrong?

“How our son was attracted to such darkness is a terrifying mystery to us,” Earnest’s family wrote in a statement released this week. They said their son’s “actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold.”

Former classmates also say they were perplexed by the turn of events. The Earnest in court Tuesday is unrecognizable from the high school boy they knew two years ago.

Back then he was known as the guy who was so smart that he didn’t bother to take notes in advanced chemistry and physics, but still aced every exam; so quiet that some teachers were startled when he spoke.

“I walked the same hallways as this guy, read the same textbooks, drove around the same areas, and essentially had the same upbringing,” one student posted on the online forum Reddit, “but he became a murderer?”

….

According to law enforcement officials, Earnest used an “AR-type assault weapon” to shoot the victims. Prosecutors told a judge Tuesday that Earnest donned a tactical vest and helmet during the attack and had extra magazines of ammunition with him. The shooting, they said, was captured on video and abruptly ended when either his gun jammed or he was unable to reload. He fled the scene and called 911 on himself, making statements about the incident that San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan described as “consistent with the charges.”

….

In the online manifesto, Earnest allegedly wrote he was inspired by an attacker who killed scores of people at a New Zealand mosque and Islamic center on March 15. The teen said he conceived of and executed his own assault within a month. The assault on the synagogue was April 27.

The manifesto reflects a long-simmering, extreme hatred of Jews. His expletive-filled rant refers to Jews as degenerative, genocidal, ugly, cursed and corrupt. He blames the Jews for a multitude of what he considers societal problems, from communism to pornography. He added bigoted and racist comments about many other ethnicities, religions and races.

Earnest brags of what he calls his European ancestry — his “magnificent bloodline.” He claims that his violence is condoned by his Christianity. He rails against law enforcement. He lists Adolf Hitler as one of his inspirations.

The teenager’s family said they were disgusted by his actions, writing in their statement, “He has killed and injured the faithful who were gathered in a sacred place on a sacred day. To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries.”

The Washington Post adds:

Before he allegedly walked into a synagogue in Poway, Calif., and opened fire, John Earnest appears to have written a seven-page letter spelling out his core beliefs: that Jewish people, guilty in his view of faults ranging from killing Jesus to controlling the media, deserved to die. That his intention to kill Jews would glorify God.

Days later, the Rev. Mika Edmondson read those words and was stunned. “It certainly calls for a good amount of soul-searching,” said Edmondson, a pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a small evangelical denomination founded to counter liberalism in mainline Presbyterianism. Earnest, 19, was a member of an OPC congregation. His father was an elder. He attended regularly. And in the manifesto, the writer spewed not only invective against Jews and racial minorities but also cogent Christian theology.

So the pastor read those seven pages, trying to understand. “We can’t pretend as though we didn’t have some responsibility for him — he was radicalized into white nationalism from within the very midst of our church,” Edmondson said.

Earnest’s actions on Saturday in Poway — where he allegedly killed one Jewish worshiper and injured a rabbi, a child and another synagogue-goer — have spurred debate among evangelical pastors about the role of a certain stream of Christian theology in shaping the young man’s worldview, which allegedly turned deadly on the last day of the Passover holiday.

Christian leaders across denominations condemned the attack, saying violence against others and white supremacy are completely antithetical to Christian beliefs. “Anti-Semitism and racist hatred which apparently motivated the shooter . . . have no place within our system of doctrine,” the OPC denomination said in a statement.

But while some said Earnest’s background in the church has nothing to do with his alleged crime, and the church shouldn’t have to answer for him, others called for a moment of reckoning.

Some drew comparisons to Muslim communities asked to account for terrorist actions and worried that they could be in the same position when the shooter claims to be a faithful Christian.

“When there’s an act of ‘radical Islamic terror’ — somebody claiming they’re motivated by their Islamic faith — if we’re going to call upon moderates in Muslim communities to condemn those things, we should do the same. I wholeheartedly, full stop, condemn white nationalism,” said Chad Woolf, an evangelical pastor in Fort Myers, Fla., who was one of the first to join in heated debate online about how the attack reflects on evangelicalism. “We should recognize that somebody could grow up in an evangelical church, whose father was a leader, and could somehow conflate the teachings of Christianity and white nationalism. We should be very concerned about that.”

Earnest could face the death penalty, if convicted.

For further information

National Review article

San Diego Tribune article

Terry Mattingly article

 

 

Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Artie Sturm Charged With Statutory Rape

pastor artie sturm

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.

Artie Sturm, pastor of DaySpring Baptist Church (no web presence) in Newport, Tennessee, was arrested last week and charged with using his position of trust to rape a church teenager. DaySpring Baptist is affiliated with the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement.  Sturm was released after the judge reduced his bail from $150,000 to $50,000.

dayspring baptist church newport

Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Pastor Malo “Victor” Monteiro Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

victor monteiro

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 July 2018, Malo “Victor” Monteiro, former youth pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar, California and former assistant pastor at Menifee Baptist Church in Menifee, California, was accused of sexually abusing numerous children over a twenty year period. The Press-Enterprise reported at the time:

A youth pastor in Wildomar was arrested Friday on suspicion of sexually assaulting children over a nearly 20-year span.

Malo Victor Monteiro, 45, of Colton, was booked into Cois M. Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta on suspicion of intent to commit rape, mayhem or sodomy, lewd and lascivious acts with force on a child under 14, lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14, distributing harmful matter and sexual penetration by force, according to the Riverside County jail log.

A woman by the name of April Avila publicly accused Monteiro of sexually abusing her while she attended Faith Baptist. ABC-7 reported:

A woman came forward Monday to describe being sexually abused and how her former youth pastor Victor Monteiro groomed her.

“It was little by little, but then he would tell you, ‘You’re really cool. You’re special to me,'” April Avila said. “He would punch you on the shoulder, you know, be the cool youth pastor. Then it became caressing and touching your butt.”

Monteiro was arrested last week on numerous felony charges related to sexual assault on children that spans two decades. Avila said she came to know Montiero when she and her family attended Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar.

“The more involved I was, that’s when things began to escalate at church and away from church,” she said.

Avila is just one suspected victim, and there are others. Another suspected victim of abuse is suing Faith Baptist Church, accusing church administrators of knowing about the allegations and covering up for Monteiro.

In the lawsuit, it claims the church was aware of another youth pastor, who is suspected of having an inappropriate relationship, but the entity ignored it. In doing so, it allowed Monteiro to prey on his victims.

“He knew very well what I had gone through,” Kathy Durbins said.

Durbins is Monteiro’s sister-in-law. She said she was involved in an inappropriate relationship at Faith Baptist when she was a teenager. She said her brother-in-law used his knowledge of the church’s cover up to hide his own crimes.

“I wasn’t allowed to talk about it. There was no law enforcement called. So basically it was a big cover up,” she said.

….

Last November, Monteiro pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting several church teenagers and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The Press-Enterprise reported:

Malo “Victor” Monteiro, 45, pleaded guilty at Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta on Tuesday, Nov. 13, to four counts of lewd acts on a child of 14-15 years of age with the defendant at least 10 years older, two counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object and one count of attempted copulation of a minor, all felonies.

….

Before the sentencing, victims and former Faith Baptist Church congregants Rachel Peach, Lea Ramirez and April Avila — who all had previously told their stories publicly — made victim-impact statements.

Peach, who has sued the church, said in the lawsuit that her relationship with Monteiro started in the fall of 2007, when she was 15, and it advanced to sexual intercourse in the summer of 2008.

Ramirez has said she never had sexual intercourse with Monteiro, but she added that he would make her feel guilty when she refused. Ramirez said she left the church when she was 15 because of him.

Avila had said she was 14 when Monteiro began grooming her for sexual abuse with horseplay that turned intimate. She said Monteiro told her that it would damage her reputation if she reported the abuse.

Monteiro’s victims shared their stories in a Press-Enterprise news story. You can read their accounts here.

Faith Baptist Church is pastored by Bruce Goddard. Menifee Baptist Church is pastored by Pat Cook. Both congregations are Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. I previously wrote a post about Bruce Goddard titled, Pastor Bruce Goddard and His Bait and Switch Tactics.

Black Collar Crime: Methodist Youth Pastor Clinton Brackett Pleads Guilty to Sexual Assault

clinton brackett

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 October 2017, Clinton Brackett, Director of Student Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Lindale, Texas, was accused of sexual assault. Prior to his employment at First United Methodist, Brackett spent five years working for First Baptist Church in Ballinger, Texas.

The Tyler Morning Telegraph reported at the time:

The Director of Student Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Lindale has been arrested for sexual assault.

Clinton Brackett, 32, of Lindale was arrested Thursday on a warrant out of Runnels County and taken to the Smith County Jail.

The arrest was the result of information obtained from a Texas Highway Patrol trooper’s traffic stop in Runnels County, according to a statement from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

….

First United Methodist Senior Pastor Rick Ivey released a statement saying Clinton Brackett, an employee at the church was arrested Thursday for charges of sexual assault that happened in Runnels County.

Ivey said the incident did not happen at FUMC Lindale or in the Lindale community.

“Clint Bracket’s employment with our church has been terminated,” Ivey said.

Brackett’s social media page indicates he was previously employed as the First Baptist Church in Ballinger. In a social medial post on Dec. 6, 2015, Brackett wrote that he accepted the position of Student Minister at the First United Methodist Church in Lindale and would be leaving the church in Ballinger after four and half years as a minister and member of the First Baptist Church family.

Brackett was held on a $100,000 bond which he posted on Thursday, according to Smith County Judicial records.

Yesterday, Brackett pleaded guilty to child sexual assault and was sentenced to eight years in prison.