Tag Archive: Open Door Baptist Church Mesquite

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 Preacher Robert Ross Accused of Covering Up Child Abuse

robert ross steven winn larry winn

Pastor Robert Ross, Steven Winn, and Larry Winn. The church that preys together stays together.

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, I posted a story about Steven Winn’s arrest on sex crime charges. In March, I posted a story about Steve Winn’s father, Larry, being arrested on similar charges. Today, their pastor, Robert Ross, has been arrested on charges that he failed to make a child abuse report. Ross is mandatory reporter, yet he did nothing. I have long argued that pastors — if they know about child abuse or a sex crime and don’t report it — should be arrested and prosecuted for failing to report. As long as there is nu punishment for their crimes, pastors will continue to sweep child abuse and sexual assault allegations under the proverbial rug.

According to the report that follows, Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist institution — has had at least four members accused of sexual abuse in its fifty-year history.

Sarah Smith, a reporter for The Star Telegram, writes:

The pastor of a fundamentalist Baptist church with two members already facing sex abuse charges was arrested Tuesday on charges that he failed to make a required child abuse report.

Robert A. Ross, the pastor of Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite, is in the Mesquite jail. Bond has been set at $2,500. The police have not yet responded to a request for comment.

Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite has had four members accused of sexual abuse in its 50-year history. Members and ex-members say a strict culture that reveres church authorities as nearly unquestionable has led to an environment conducive to ongoing abuse.

A tipster reported the most recent allegations to Mesquite police in late February. They involved a father-son pair described as belonging to a family deeply involved in the church.

Police arrested Steven Winn, 33, who volunteered with Open Door’s youth ministry, and charged him with three counts of sexual assault of a child on Feb. 22. Larry Winn, his father and the church’s 65-year-old bus minister, was arrested a few days later and charged with sexual assault of a child. The cases involve different victims.

In 2011, the church’s then-pastor, Matt Jarrell, committed suicide in a West Virginia jail cell, where he was being held on rape charges. He had a history of sexual assault arrests, at least one of which was known to the church’s assistant pastor, per news reports at the time.

Back in 1988, Donald Lewis — another bus minister — pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child. He died while on probation. One of Lewis’ victims claims that the church’s pastor, Sylvester Matthews, knew of the abuse before his arrest.

….

Steven Winn is accused of having a 14-month sexual relationship with a minor that began when the girl was 15 and a student at the church’s school, Mesquite Bible Academy. Winn volunteered with the church’s youth ministry.

Several congregants said they were long concerned about what they say looked like an obviously inappropriate relationship between a 33-year-old man in power and a teenager.

One former member put it like this: “Anyone with two eyes and an Instagram account could have seen that things didn’t look right.”

The girl, who is still a minor and isn’t being identified by the Star-Telegram, posted pictures of herself and Winn on her page, which the Star-Telegram reviewed. The two sat close — much closer than Open Door usually allows even dating couples —and were spending an excessive amount of time together, said the former member.

….

“I talked to her a couple times on my phone,” another member said. “I was like ‘Hey, you shouldn’t be calling this guy your daddy, he’s just some guy at church.’ And she’s like, ‘You know, it’s none of your business.’ ”

He said he discussed it with friends but ultimately chose not to bring it up to anyone else.

“When you’re in the church, you believe that the pastors are the authorities,” he said. “They know what’s going on. So you would just automatically figure, it’s probably not right that they’re doing that, but I don’t think there’s anything super wrong going on, you know?”

The girl did not respond to a request for comment. The girl’s mother, reached by phone, declined to comment.

After Steven Winn’s arrest, Ross, the pastor, called a members’ meeting, longtime member Austin Guthrie said. Ross gave no details beyond the charges and said that Steven Winn had turned himself into police.

Lt. Brian Parrish, the Mesquite Police Department’s public relations officer, said Steven Winn and his father voluntarily surrendered to police. However, he said, Steven Winn did not come forward and confess of his own accord. Police received a tip on Feb. 18 — four days before Winn’s arrest. The tipster did not know the extent of the assaults, but was concerned about the relationship.

The same tipster who contacted police about Steven Winn spoke to police about Larry Winn, the bus minister for Open Door, in charge of the fleet of school buses painted with the church logo that shepherds children to and from services. When police contacted the alleged victim, she told them that Larry Winn had assaulted her three years ago, when she was 16.

….

The accusations against Larry Winn are similar to those in a case involving Sherry May Sims in the 1980s.

Sims is 46 now, but when she was 12, an Open Door bus minister raped her. The assaults went on for four years, from 1984 to 1988, she said.

Donald Lewis was the bus driver. Lori Clark, who attended Open Door at the time, remembered Lewis as heavyset and graying, always in a suit. Kids nicknamed him the “Candy Man” for the brown paper bag of hard candy he carried.

A different victim, also a minor female, reported Lewis to the Mesquite police in 1988. When the news about Lewis broke, Sims’ parents asked her if anything happened. She said she told them the truth. On May 18, 1988, Sims told her story to the Mesquite police. Later, she told it to a grand jury.

She said she never thought to report it herself.

“He was an authority figure and you didn’t say anything bad about authority figures,” Sims said.

Donald Lewis pleaded guilty. He died while on probation in 1994.

When Sims told her parents what happened, her father met with the pastor, Matthews. Her father, who died last year, told Sims that Matthews said there had been other allegations made to him prior to Lewis’ arrest. Nothing was done.

Matthews is still employed at Open Door. He serves as a senior pastor and a math teacher at Open Door’s school.

….

You can read the entire sordid story here.

Black Collar Crime: IFB Bus Director Larry Winn Accused of Sexual Assault

larry 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.

Last week, I posted a story about Steven Winn, a youth worker at Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas, being arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a church girl. This week, Larry Winn, Steven’s father, has been arrested on sexual assault charges. The elder Winn was the bus director at Open Door, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

Domingo Ramirez, Jr, a reporter for the Star-Telegram, writes:

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. 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.

Days before Larry Winn was arrested, his son Steven Aaron Winn, 33, also a church volunteer, was arrested on a charge of sexually assaulting a different teenage girl at the church.

Larry Winn was arrested Thursday after police received a tip. He was free Tuesday after posting $25,000 bail.

While being interviewed by police, the girl made an outcry of sexual assault that authorities say occurred three years ago when she was 16.

Larry Winn has been on the church staff for several years, police said.

Steven Aaron Winn, of Crandall, worked with church youths, and he became the subject of an investigation Feb. 18, also based on a tip.

….

In 2011, Open Door’s then-pastor Matt Jarrell was arrested and accused of raping a woman near Charleston, W.Va. Jarrell was later found hanging in his jail cell and could not be revived

….

Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Worker Steven Winn Accused of Having Sex With 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.

Steven Winn, an unpaid youth worker at Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas, stands accused of sexually assaulting a teen church girl.

WFAA-8 reports:

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.

In 2011, Matt Jarrell, Open Door Baptist Church’s pastor at the time, was accused of rape. He 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.

….