Florida

CITYNAMENEWS EXCERPT
CITYNAMENEWS EXCERPT
APOPKADavid Joe Rich

A minister who molested third-graders at his church school couldn't promise that he wouldn't molest again, and so was sentenced to prison for 7 years and 4 months, followed by 10 years of probation. The judge acknowledged the remorse of David Joe Rich, 55, and that he took responsibility for his crimes, but said she wanted to ensure he would not harm anyone again.

Rich, former pastor of Springs Community Baptist Church, pleaded guilty to molesting 2 girls and trying to molest a third during the 1995-96 school year. He fondled the girls, ages 8 and 9, at his desk while other students were in the classroom, said the prosecutor. The desk concealed the probing.

Rich apologized and made no excuses for his conduct but could not explain it. With God's help and counseling, he said, he hoped never to molest again. But he said he would be foolish to make a "100 percent" guarantee. He had resigned when confronted about the abuse 2 years after it ended.

While on probation, Rich must get counseling. He cannot be alone with children younger than 18 or live near a school or other place where children visit. The judge told Rich he should bring his ministry to prison. "There are people in prison who could use your services," she said. (Orlando Sentinel, 12/4/1998)

BARTOWKenneth Baxley

Accompanied by family and parishioners, the Rev. Kenneth Baxley, pastor of Central Baptist Community Ministries in Lakeland, was sentenced Thursday to a two-year prison term for failing to register as a sex offender. The failure-to-register charge originated with a crime committed by Baxley in 1983 but confessed to seven years later. He served 15 months in prison for attempted sexual battery on a child younger than 12. Baxley has served several churches in various capacities in the Lakeland area since his release. (The Ledger, 6/1/2001)

BOYNTON BEACHDieugrand Jacques

Dieugrand Jacques, a former pastor of the New Alliance Haitian Church in Boynton Beach, was sentenced yesterday to ten years in prison, nearly three months after a jury found him guilty of molesting a 15-year-old female churchgoer during a counseling session in 2007.

Over objections from the state, a judge granted Jacques a bond of $75,000 so he can remain on house arrest while he appeals his sentence. He's also allowed to conduct church services on Sundays.

During Jacques' trial, another girl had testified that she went to him to confide about a previous molestation in her life, so Jacques told her that "he needed to determine the extent of the molestation" -- which apparently meant having sex with the girl in the church, according to the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office. (Broward/ Palm Beach News Times, 12/13/2011

BRANDONWilliam A Richardson II

A youth minister was arrested Wednesday on charges he sexually battered a girl several times during Sunday school classes.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's office said the abuse began when the girl was as young as 9 and continued until she was 11.

William A. Richardson II, 47, of Brandon first molested the girl in 2010 during Sunday school at First Baptist Church of Mango in Seffner, deputies said. The abuse happened again at least once this year during Sunday school, deputies said.

Richardson is the assistant youth ministries and choir director at the church, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The incidents were reported on Oct. 22, deputies said, and after an investigation Richardson was arrested at his home Wednesday on charges of sexual battery and lewd molestation. He was booked into the Hillsborough County Jail, where he was held without bail. (tampabay.com, 10/31/13)

CAPE CORALTroy Cecil Snlowden

The FBI has issued an arrest warrant for a former minister and radio evangelist after seizing child pornography, weapons and other items from his home, records show. Troy Cecil Snowden, 59, was indicted last week by a federal grand jury on charges of possessing child pornography, wire fraud, transporting a child for illegal purposes and possession of a shotgun. (AP, 8/11/2002)

CHULUOTADavid Rutherford Downs

Ex-Baptist preacher re-arrested on child-rape charges. Similar charges against 55-year-old David Downs were dropped just last week.

Nearly one month after the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's office decided not to pursue charges against a Baptist minister accused of molesting a child, state prosecutors are trying again.

David Rutherford Downs, 55, was re-arrested on Friday on a warrant charging him with two counts of sexual battery and six counts of lewd and lascivious conduct.

The charges stem from allegations that the former Chuluota pastor had inappropriate sexual contact with a child under the age of 12 after over the course of several years.

Downs was first arrested in July 2012 after a victim came forward to law enforcement saying she had been touched and battered by the preacher on numerous occasions throughout her childhood.

He stepped down as pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church after the charges surfaced. Church officials say he is no longer a member.

Downs was behind bars for several months fighting the charges in court until January, when a judge granted him bail.

His attorney, Tad Yates, fought to have the charges dismissed, claiming no one could corroborate the victim's testimony and she only levied the allegations to retaliate against Downs for another incident.

It is unclear why prosecutors dropped the charges in late August but court documents revealed the State had difficulty deposing the witnesses.

Nevertheless, they re-filed those charges last week and Downs is back in custody.

He is being held without bond at the Orange County Jail. (9/23/2013|By Arelis R. Hernández, Orlando Sentinel)

CLEARWATERCharles Robinson

A former pastor has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading no contest to charges he molested two young girls.

Rev. Charles Robinson, 63, former pastor of an AME Church in St. Petersburg, pleaded no contest to 5 felony charges of sexual contact with parishioners, ages 13 and 15, in 1998 and 1999.

Investigators said while sexual relations were consensual with the older girl, the younger teen told police he forced her. Under Florida law, it is illegal for an adult to have sex with a minor even if the contact is consensual.

In an agreement with prosecutors, Robinson pleaded guilty to 4 counts of handling and fondling a child under 16 and one of performing a lewd and lascivious act.

Robinson faced a maximum sentence of 75 years in prison if convicted at trial. The prosecutor said the minister was offered the plea agreement because the victims’ families wanted to avoid the trauma of trial. (AP, 6/7/2000)

DELRAY BEACHLyondon Howell

An associate pastor is behind bars, accused of molesting a young girl and possibly fathering her child. Police say that Lyndon Howell, who served at the Delray Community Missionary Baptist Church, befriended the victim's family when she was 11 years old. For the next four years, police believe that Howell had sex with her. Howell faces several charges. He is being held without bond at the Palm Beach County Jail. (Sun Sentinel, 6/27/01)

DUVAL COUNTYRoy Lynn Gaskins

A Duval county minister, Rev. Roy Lynn Gaskins of Edgewood Heights Baptist Church, was accused of forcing a 13 year old boy at gunpoint to have sex. (Florida Times-Union 5/13/88)

EDEWATERMatthew C. Graziotti

A teacher at Warner Christian Academy in South Daytona has been placed on unpaid administrative suspension pending an investigation into allegations of possession and distribution of child pornography.

Matthew C. Graziotti,42, of Edgewater, was arrested on Monday following a joint investigation by the FBI, the Edgewater Police Department and the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.

According to a criminal complaint, Graziotti distributed 141 images and 6 videos depicting the sexual abuse and exploitation of children to an FBI agent, who was acting in an undercover capacity. During the execution of a search warrant, agents said they located thousands of child pornography images on Graziotti's computer.

One folder on the computer was named "personally known." The folder contained 41 subfolders titled with different boys' names. In one of the subfolders, agents said they located a picture of Graziotti sexually abusing a prepubescent boy. According to the criminal complaint documents, the picture was produced with a digital camera that agents found in Graziotti's residence.

Investigators say Graziotti not only teaches at Warner Christian Academy, but is also director of the school's summer day camp program. He formerly worked as a youth pastor at a church in Edgewater. (myfoxorlando.com, 7/14/2014)

EustisPedro L Custodio aka Pastor Pete

A pastor accused of sexual battery didn’t take too kindly to a reporter’s line of questioning this week, becoming so irate that he snatched her microphone and threw it — all while a news camera was rolling.

Pedro L. Custodio, known locally as “Pastor Pete,” runs Our Father’s House of Refuge Ministries, Inc., a shelter for homeless women in Eustis, Florida.

And three women who spent time there have come forward accusing the faith leader of sexual battery, with at least one of them claiming that he raped her, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

After Custodio, 44, was arrested this week and subsequently bonded out of jail Tuesday, he was faced with a litany of questions from WFTV-TV reporter Renee Stoll. As she followed him asking about the allegations, he shielded his face and attempted to dismiss the claims made against him, at moments saying he had “no comment.” But when he could apparently no longer take Stoll’s incessant curiosity, he grabbed her microphone and threw it.

While the video is muffled, Stoll seemingly responded to the incident by proclaiming, “That’s assault.” (theblaze.com, 7/17/2014)

FERNANDINA BEACHJames Clifton Nalley

JAMES CLIFTON NALLEY, a volunteer at Bible Baptist Church in Fernandina Beach, Fla., was charged with fondling 2 church girls, ages 9 and 11. Church members phoned police after a child reported the abuse. (Florida Times-Union, 4/4/1989)

FORT PIERCEKenneth Johnson

Pastor Kenneth Johnson, recently convicted of having sex with a minor, and Friendship Missionary Baptist Church -- where he reportedly continues to minister -- were named in a sex-abuse lawsuit filed Tuesday. Johnson, 39, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday on one count of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. He faces up to 15 years on the second-degree felony. (The Tribune, 1/ 22/2003)

GAINESVILLEBobby Harold Epps

Baptist Rev. Bobby Harold Epps of Starke, Florida pleaded guilty in May, 1986 to performing a lewd and lascivious act in the presence of a child under the age of 16. He was convicted of fondling a girl in a church office, and masturbating in her presence when giving her a ride home following a church activity. (Gainesville Sun, 5/28/86)

JACKSONVILLEStephen Lee Edmonds

A businessman and deacon of First Baptist Church already accused of molesting a minor was arrested Thursday on charges he molested two other youths. Stephen Lee Edmonds, 44, was charged with five counts of lewd and lascivious assault, said David Sembach, Jacksonville police assistant chief of detectives. The victims were 14 and 15 years old, authorities said. He had been free on $50,000 bond following an arrest April 15, when he was charged with molesting a 16-year-old and sending him Internet messages discussing sexual practices. The 16-year-old alleged that Edmonds improperly touched him twice in 2000. (Naples Daily News, 4/26/2002)

William Murray Hendricks Jr

WILLIAM MURRAY HENDRICKS JR., 50, pastor of Clay Hill Baptist Church, pleaded guilty to 2 counts of lewd & lascivious assault on a minor. The victim: a girl, 7, molested at the church, parish house in 1988 where he pastored for 15 years. As a plea bargain he agreed not to perform pastoral duties until his probation ended. (Florida Times-Union, 9/19/1989)

Joe Marino

Rev. Joe Marino, host of Christian talkshow "Inner Visions" in Jacksonville, Fla., and youth minister/counselor at Beaches Chapel in Neptune Beach, plead no contest to custodial sexual battery and soliciting sex from a 16 year old member of his church. Other charges were dropped. The abuse was disclosed after a victim from the church had attempted suicide. (Florida Times-Union, 5/13/1988)

Anthony P Denton

Trinity Baptist Church counselor charged with molesting children in North Carolina 30 years ago was a counselor at a state hospital in Baker County until his arrest last week in Jacksonville, an official with the Florida Department of Children and Families said Tuesday.

Anthony Phillip Denton, 56, of Radnor Lane was once a part-time marriage and family counselor at the Westside church, a Trinity spokesman said. And he was still counseling for a local brain injury support group he helped launch, a friend of Denton said.

Denton was arrested Oct. 3 by Jacksonville police and is being held without bail on 16 counts of taking indecent liberties with children in North Carolina, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

A grand jury in Cumberland County, N.C., recently indicted Denton on the felony charges involving incidents between 1977 and 1981, The Fayetteville Observer reported Tuesday.

Back then, Denton was the music minister at Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, the newspaper said. The three girls in the indictment were the children of church members, The Observer report said.(The Florida Times Union, 10/10/2007)

Trinity Baptist Church

MORE LEGAL ACTION AGAINST TRINITY BAPTIST CHURCH. Two more civil suits have been filed. They stem from the alleged sexual abuse by former pastor Bob Gray. Dr. Gray is scheduled for his criminal trial in November. He's accused of capital sexual battery on several girls and one boy. Those children are now adults. The two new civil suits bring the total to five filed now against Trinity. The civil suits allege Trinity knew Dr. Gray was a child abuser and did not tell authorities and did not protect the children or warn their families. Miami attorney, Adam Horowitz, said Wednesday he expects each suit to be worth "millions." He says it's certain the civil action won't be ready before the criminal trial in November. (First Coast News, 6/14/2007)

Dr. Bob Gray

The former pastor of Florida Baptist mega-church charged with sexually abusing 21 women and one man when they were children won’t face his accusers in court. Bob Gray, 38-year-pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., died Saturday, just days before his criminal trial was scheduled to start.

Gray, 81, had been scheduled to stand trial on six counts of capital sexual batter, with jury selection beginning Nov. 13. Gray entered a Jacksonville hospital Oct. 20 with an undisclosed medical condition. A judge delayed his trial pending a Dec. 12 status hearing. Last week media reported Gray had been taken off life support. (First Coast News, 11/12/2007)

ARCHIVED News Articles from First Coast News regarding Dr. Bob Gray and the Lawsuits:

Another Lawsuit Against Trinity Baptist Church 3/2/2007

Attorney Says Trinity Lawsuit Worth "Millions" 2/24/2007

Jury Selection Set for Pastor Accused of Molestation 2/7/2007

Trinity Responds To Cover-Up Investigation 11/3/2006

Was There A Cover-Up at Trinity Baptist Church? 11/2/2006

Pastor Bob Gray Appears in Court Again 9/15/2006

Former Pastor Dr. Robert Gray In Court Again 8/16/2006

Dr. Gray's Newest Alleged Sex Abuse Victim Consolidated With Others for Trial 8/15/2006

Exclusive: The Man Accusing Dr. Gray of Molestation 7/9/2006

Pastor Bob Gray Arrested Again: Accused of Molesting a Boy Years Ago 7/7/2006

Alleged Victims Molested by Pastor Speak 5/23/2006

Pastor Arrested on Molestation Charges 5/22/2006

Thomas Rake

Trinity Christian Academy teacher Thomas Rake, 35, pleaded guilty to 1 count of lewd and lascivious conduct for fondling a girl, 13.

The Jacksonville junior high Bible instructor agreed to have no contact with the student and was given 3 years' probation, and is forbidden to have any contact with children. (Jacksonville Times Union, 3/7/1997)

LAKE COUNTYFlorida Baptist Convention

A Lake County jury today found the Florida Baptist Convention liable for a former pastor who sexually abused a 13-year-old boy in Eustis. Jurors decided that the convention didn't do enough to investigate the background of Douglas W. Myers, who started two churches in Lake County after receiving funds and training from the convention. (Orlando Sentinel, 5/17/2012)

LAKE WALESGene Francis

The pastor at the Church of the Nazarene has been charged with sexually assaulting a male 17-year-old youth leader three times in 2001. The Rev. Gene Francis, 52, of Lake Wales, was arrested Tuesday and charged with unlawful sexual activity with a minor. (Sarasota Herald-Tribune,6/4/2003)

William Benjamin Wells

William Benjamin Wells, 36, pastor of Christian Harvest Ministries, was arrested on June 6 and charged with two counts of molestation on a victim less than 12 years old, two counts of sexual assault on a victim under 18 years of age, and one count of sexual battery on a victim under 12 years old. (6/20/2002; Lake Wales News)

LARGORandy Morrow

Randy Morrow, 40, street minister with Countryside Baptist Church in Palm Harbor, was charged with molesting three teenage boys. (St. Petersburg Times, 10/18/2000)

LEESBURGThomas Halsey

A Florida minister used a tree house at his home to sexually abuse a young girl, police said. Deacon Thomas Warren Halsey, 65, was arrested for allegedly sexually battering a girl under the age of 10 on his Leesburg property, reports the Orlando Sentinel. The deacon turned himself in to police on Friday. He is being held at Lake County jail on no bail and is charged with two counts of sexual battery on a child under the age of 12, according to the jail. The victim told police the deacon told her to touch him inappropriately in the tree house and also in his bed. He also exposed himself to the girl in the tree house, the newspaper reports. (nydailynews.com, 3/30/2014)

A deacon at the First Baptist Church in Leesburg was arrested Friday in a child sex case. Lake County Sheriff's Office deputies said Thomas Halsey sexually abused a young girl for two years. Halsey is accused of sexual battery on a child under 10 years old. Investigators said the young girl said Halsey forced the child to perform sexual acts on him inside his home and his tree house, located in his backyard. Deputies said Halsey denied the accusations and claimed the child initiated the sexual acts. According to the arrest report, Halsey told investigators the child "asked him to take off his clothes and lay on top her while she was naked." As a deacon, Halsey worked with widows, but never with children, investigators said. First Baptist Church released the following statement: "First Baptist Church is very saddened to hear of the situation with Mr. Halsey. We would like to stress that he has not been involved in working with youth or children at our church in any way. We are committed to praying for him and his family during this difficult time." Halsey turned himself in Friday afternoon. He is in jail without bond. Halsey will appear in front of a judge Saturday. (Local News WESH)

MASCOTTEWilliam Nathan White Jr

A Hillcrest Baptist Church pastor was charged with molesting three foster children left in his care. Pastor William Nathan White, Jr., 50, was being held at the county jail on $45,000 bond, charged with three counts of sexual battery of a child under age 12, a capital offense, jail officials said.

Following his arrest, 8 foster children and 3 adopted children were removed from his home and placed in other foster homes according to a spokeswoman for the state Dept. of Children & Families. State records show that White and his wife, Susan, have taken in at least 20 children since they were licensed by the state to become foster parents in 1995.

White first was accused of sexual battery when a 7-year-old girl, who lived with the family for two weeks, told her natural mother during a visit monitored by social workers that White had molested her a sheriff\'s spokesman said. The girl told investigators that while sitting on White's lap, the minister asked her if anyone had ever touched her "private area." White then placed his hand inside her clothing and fondled her, reports said.

In a videotaped interview, a 10-year-old told authorities White had repeatedly molested her since she came to live with him in Aug., according to reports. An 11-year-old, who lived with the Whites from Aug. into Nov., said the pastor often had her sit on his lap while she played computer games, and he once fondled her, records said.

Investigators plan to question every child the Whites have had in their custody since 1995. State social workers are also reviewing their files to determine if there were any concerns raised about the Whites\' home in the past. (AP, 3/5/1999)

MATHISAntonio S Martinez

It took a jury only 28 minutes to find ANTONIO S. MARTINEZ, 59, a Pentecostal evangelist from Mathis, FL, guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a girl, 12. He claimed they had a common-law marriage. He first assaulted her when she was 11 and in 5th grade. Her grandmother forced her into the arrangement. A doctor turned Martinez in after Martinez asked him why she didn't become pregnant. (Corpus-Christi Caller Times, 9/27,28/1989)

MIAMIKeith Geren

CHURCH TO PAY MILLIONS FOR MINISTER'S ABUSES. Wayside Baptist Church in Miami received a $6.7 million judgment for negligence in hiring and retaining Keith Geren as youth minister. The church did not do background or reference checks, nor did Geren even fill out a job application, though Geren did admit urges to molest boys. He sexually molested nearly a dozen teenage boys. Church officials say they had no idea Geren was a pedophile. All of the money is going to one victim, Daniel Artis, for emotional pain, treatment, and punitive damages. (Sarasota Herald-Tribune 2/6/94)

They're more suspicious of people today at Wayside Baptist Church in Kendall than they were before the 1994 trial that convicted Keith Geren, one of their popular youth ministers, of molesting nearly a dozen boys, ages 13 to 16. He was sent to prison for 15 years and cost the church $4.2 million in damages.

''It used to be we just trusted everybody,'' says the Rev. Gary Johnson, Wayside's present pastor. "We don't trust anymore. We take precautions.''

Today, Wayside gives new employees criminal background checks. It has installed windows in every classroom. At least two adults run every children's class. Men may not change diapers. (1994, Miami Herald)

Oreste Victoriano Lopez

Oreste Victoriano Lopez, 60, was arrested by Miami police for sexually assaulting male and female teenagers he met through his business, community and church activities. Victims said they were wooed by Lopez's kindness and financial generosity and his use of bible verses to justify his actions. He met youth at his church, West Flagler Park Baptist Church. Police found pornography, comic books, bibles, toys and children's clothes at his home, as well as 1000 files detailing children's lives. On his wall was a letter thanking him for his work with youth. (Miami Herald 7/17/1998)

Daniel Garnicki

So sure are parishioners of Camino de Santidad Church that their pastor, Rev. Daniel Garnicki, is innocent of charges of having sex with a 15-year-old girl that more than a dozen of them have declared a hunger strike. Camped out on mattresses under a large tent covering the parking lot of their church, 14 people have vowed not to eat until Garnicki is set free. Among the fasters are the minister's wife, stepson, brother, and the accuser's ex-boyfriend.

The church crisis stems from the September arrest of Garnicki, an evangelical minister who hosts a four-hour Christian radio program . A teenager who attended services at the church told police that, one night after service last year, Garnicki lured her to a motel in Miami Beach by saying he needed her assistance with a study on how Christian women and worldly women's interest in pornography differed. Once there, she told police he ordered a pornographic movie and forced her to perform oral sex on him. He allegedly had intercourse with her, and then made her pray for forgiveness for having sinned.

Garnicki was charged with having sex with a minor in his custody. He is under house arrest in his West Dade home but continues to preach each night via satellite. His case is expected to go to trial in May.

Though prosecutors say they have witnesses and evidence that Garnicki signed in at the hotel and rented the movie, members of Garnicki's church have taken their outrage to the radio waves. They claim the accusations are creations of a troubled and promiscuous girl who is only out for money. Parishioners believe the accusations are a conspiracy by homosexuals who resent Garnicki's fight against gay-rights laws. (4/6/1998)

NEW PORT RICHEYAlfonso Marales

The mother of a 5-year-old girl has filed a lawsuit against the Gospel Outreach Church of New Port Richey, alleging that her daughter was molested because church officials failed to screen the background of a church volunteer. Alfonso Morales, 54, pleaded guilty last month to molesting the girl on a church bus in May 2001. He also pleaded guilty to molesting a second 5-year-old girl in the church parking lot in November 2000. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Morales was previously convicted in New York of sexual battery on a child. He was released from prison in 1992 after serving five years. (6/25/2002, St. Petersburg Times)

OCALAPaul Slater

PAUL SLATER, 64, a traveling evangelist was charged with 4 counts of sexual battery after 8 and 12 year old sisters reported being molested and raped by him. Slater, a "trusted neighbor," befriended their family. An investigator said, "We encourage people to listen to what their children have to say. Many of these cases go on for months and years." (Ocala Star-Banner, 2/18/1989)

ORLANDOHarley Francis

Church deacon Harley Francis of Powers Drive Baptist Church in Orlando was convicted of molesting six girls, ages six to 13, whom he met through his Sunday School class. The elderly deacon bribed them with gifts and told the court he couldn't understand how people could misconstrue his "kindness toward children." (Florida Today, 4/26/1986)

PACEFloyd W Linder Jr

A Panhandle minister faces a possible life sentence after he was arrested and charged with molesting children and young adults who lived with his family.

Floyd W. Linder Jr.,54, was arrested by sheriff's investigators and charged with 9 counts of capital sexual battery and 3 counts of sexual battery. Sheriff's investigators also obtained warrants charging 2 additional counts of sexual battery 15 years ago when Linder lived in Pensacola.

Linder, pastor of Pace Apostolic Church, was being held without bail at county jail.

Santa Rosa County sheriff's spokesman Jim Lyle said Linder has been investigated several times for sexual abuse since the 1990s, but he was able to keep his victims from talking by threatening to kill his wife. But Beverly Linder died in May of a stroke and Floyd Linder was arrested after detectives again interviewed his alleged victims, Lyle said.

Linder's victims ranged in age from 5 to 24 years old when they were assaulted, records show. But Sherell Farmer, Linder\'s stepdaughter, denies her stepfather assaulted anyone. "I live right behind him. There's no way," said Farmer, 33 and the oldest of eight girls and one boy raised by the Linders. (AP, 10/1/2000)

PALM BEACHCarence “Brother Will” Williams

Holy Way leader Clarence "Brother Will" Williams was arrested after a 19-year-old woman said he brainwashed her into having sex starting when she was 15. The member of the sect said he forced sex upon her and other women more than 40 times between 1987-1990. Williams, who pleaded guilty 5 years ago to "cleansing" underage members by ordering them to bare their breasts, was 2 months short of completing his 5-year probation. Terms of probation prohibited practicing aspects of his religion such as nudity, fondling children, and having non-related children spend the night. In 1986 prosecutors interviewed about a dozen girls and their mothers who described a religious ritual in which they would strip and fondle each other at Williams' command. Williams claimed this was Bible-based: "Our belief is that biblically if you have a problem within yourself, it is because of sin or weakness, and about the only thing that's going to cleanse you of that is if you expose it before the Lord." (Palm Beach Post, 2/26/1992.)

Sex abuse and mind control in the name of Jesus was uncovered at the Holy Way religious commune in Florida. "Brother Bill" Clarence E. Williams, its leader, was convicted of sexually abusing two girls during church ceremonies; inducing the sexual performance of children and other indecent assaults. Williams' commune was established on strict adherence to traditional sex roles and patriarchal rule. (Palm Beach Post, 3/13/1986; Tampa Tribune, 4/5/1987)

Keith Thomas

A lawsuit was brought against Rev. Keith Thomas, a Baptist minister from Mobile, AL, alleging that he fraudulently bilked Lucinda Bennett, a mentally ill woman, out of $1.8 million during his previous tenure at a Florida church. The incident took place at the First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, where the Rev. Keith Thomas served as senior pastor before becoming pastor of Cottage Hill Baptist Church in Mobile, AL. Church sources said that Thomas, who came to Mobile in August 2003, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the fall and had surgery in December 2003. Thomas continues to undergo chemotherapy and has battled back.

The suit accused Thomas of taking advantage of Bennett's mental health problems to get her to sign away $1.8 million she inherited from her grandmother in February of 2000. Most of that money went to First Baptist Church. He was also accused of receiving $60,000 for himself, his wife and his four children. Bennett alleged that Thomas and other church officials were well aware of her mental condition. She told many in the church that she had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in 1999. Bennett became destitute as a result of losing her money, and on asking the pastor for her money back, he said that he had none.

As part of a settlement reached, church spokespersons stated that the parties had resolved the dispute with a confidential agreement. [The Press Register, 3/2/2008: SUIT SETTLED AGAINST PASTOR]

PALM SPRINGSMormon Church

A lawsuit filed Friday against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a church bishop and a missionary, claims a woman was repeatedly sexually abused when she was a teenager in Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert, and it was covered up.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Riverside County Superior Court in Palm Springs, contends that from July to November 1985, Jacqueline Tyler, then 13, was repeatedly abused by a missionary and that after a church bishop learned of the alleged abuse, her family was told to stay quiet and the bishop "made advance payment or partial payment of damages as an accommodation to plaintiff."

It adds that as a result of the alleged abuse, Tyler gave birth to a son on June 30, 1986.

Tyler contends she was sexually abused at least once a week. And that after she became pregnant, the lawsuit claims that the missionary paid for her to go to New York, where he attempted to cause her to miscarry "by physically abusing her body." Tyler told the local bishop of the alleged abuse, her attorney Michael J. Kinslow said Friday, adding that rather than report the incident to authorities the bishop sought to send Tyler "out of the area and take the child from her and give it to another Mormon couple to raise."

Tyler "refused that plan," Kinslow said. "She has raised the young man and he is now 27 years old. He and mom are still in contact, and he understands that this is his mother, and that this is the person who has loved him throughout his life. It could have been a very different story if she had followed the plans of the church." (palm springs dessert sun, 5/2/2014; freerepublic.com, 6/27/2014)

QUINCYWilson A Mears, Jr

Wilson A. Mears, Jr., convicted of sexually assaulting his 14 year old stepdaughter, later became a Baptist pastor, and was granted a full pardon by the Florida cabinet. He sought the pardon for his 1977 crime in order to be allowed to serve as a chaplain for the state prison system. He had served 15 months in prison. "If I stood before my God and answer for my crimes, I can certainly stand before my governor and my Cabinet seeking their grace and mercy . . . I've tried to help men with the same crimes I had." He received an appointment as pastor of Pine Grove Baptist Church in Quincey. What does this favoritism say to rape and incest victims, and to imprisoned sex offenders? (Florida Today, 3/8/1987)

RIVIERA BEACHThomas Masters

A prominent minister, his church and deacon have reached a $600,000 settlement with a mentally disabled man who accused the minister of rape. The Rev. Thomas Masters, pastor of the New Macedonia Church of Riviera Beach, and Church Mutual, insurer for the church, negotiated the settlement with the man, according to his attorneys and court papers filed Monday. The man, who has the mental capacity of a 7-year-old, attended New Macedonia and accused Masters of coercing him to smoke crack cocaine and then raping him twice on church property over Thanksgiving weekend in 1991. (The Palm Beach Post, 1/14/2003)

SARASOTAAlbert Joseph Clerico Jr

ACCUSED PASTORAL COUNSELOR A PHONY. Port Charlotte Church School principal, Albert Joseph Clerico Jr., 47, charged with sexual misconduct by a psychotherapist by means of therapeutic deception, claims to be licensed by a nonexistent "scripturally based" group, National Christian Counselors Association & to have attended the nonexistent Carolina University of Theology. State investigator Robert Ford charged that Clerico "did cloak himself in the guise of Christianity & did represent to the female defendant that sexual contact" was part of the treatment. Clerico maintains his position as "pastoral counselor" exempts him under state law from charges. Police miked the victim & recorded Clerico making sexual advances, soliciting her comment on his graphic fantasies & telling her to perform oral sex. He was arrested after the 75-minute "counseling session". He has been suspended as principal of Community Christian School of First Baptist Church in Port Charlotte, & as minister of First Baptist Church, which operates the school. (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 8/4/1992)

TAMPAHenry Lyons, Bernice Edwards, Brenda Harris,

The president of the National Baptist Convention USA pleaded not guilty to federal fraud charges and was allowed to remain free on a $125,000 bond. Rev. Henry Lyons, 56, was indicted by a federal grand jury on grounds that he had used the organization of black churches to steal millions of dollars from corporations and activists.

Lyons was indicted on 56 counts including fraud, extortion, conspiracy and tax evasion. At the hearing, 8 friends of his pledged to cover the bond. He said that all of his assets were frozen by the government.

Prosecutors charge that Lyons fraudulently solicited contributions for charitable causes, including the rebuilding of black churches destroyed by arsonists. The indictment said he used the donations to support a lavish lifestyle, buying cars, jewelry, country club memberships and homes throughout the country.

Lyons already faced state charges that he used his position to bilk millions of dollars from companies doing business with the church group. A federal grand jury also indicted a convention employees Bernice Edwards and Brenda Harris. Both are free on bond also. (7/7/1998 Reuters)

Robert Harvey Alexander

A one-time Baptist church deacon was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for what the FBI called "cyberterrorism"that targeted young women on the Internet.

Robert Harvey Alexander, 52, had assembled a list of 100 e-mail addresses of high school and college students and demanded they have sexually explicit conversations with him or he would ruin their reputations, court records said.

Alexander, who was a

deacon at First Baptist Church in Tampa at the time of his arrest, also taunted his victims by telling them that police couldn't find him. FBI agents arrested him last Nov. at a computer terminal at a Tampa public library.

Alexander pled guilty to 6 counts of extortion. His attorney argued that Alexander suffers from bipolar disorder and didn't fully understand what he'd done. (AP 10/7/2000)

A church deacon already accused of Internet sex crime against a teen-age girl faced more sexual extortion charges for allegedly terrorizing 5 other high school and college students. Robert Harvey Alexander, 41, a deacon at the First Baptist Church in Tampa, was being held in lieu of $150,000 bond after an appearance in federal court to advise him of the 5 additional charges.

Three 21-year-old students at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and two students at Plantation High School in Florida were the latest alleged victims of attempts to engage them in telephone and cybersex, federal agents said. Frank Gallagher, head of Tampa's FBI office, said the new charges grew out of interviews with people named on a "Victim's List. " Agents seized the list with 99 names and e-mail addresses on it when they arrested Alexander for using the Internet in an attempt to extort a 16-year-old girl.

All of those on the list received virtually identical messages threatening to destroy their reputations unless they engaged in phone or computer sex with the sender. Gallagher called it "cyberterrorism" because of the fear created in the recipients. One women told her father, an assistant federal public defender, about the message. Another contacted university officials.

Investigators are trying to reach other women included on the list. So far, have traced 17 of them, and are continuing their search. Prosecutors said they hope the new charges will bolster their claim that Alexander is a methodical and dangerous sexual predator. (AP, 11/11/1999)

Marvin C Thompson

The search of an unpaid storage locker turned up pictures of young naked boys and led police to a church youth counselor who now faces child sex charges.

Marvin C. Thompson, 52, was being held without bond on 8 counts of sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct with children after his arrest in connection with sexual acts on two boys, ages 5 and 8.

Thompson had worked as a volunteer counselor for the Royal Rangers, a youth group affiliated with Temple Terrace Faith Assembly and had worked with at least one other Tampa church youth group, according to investigators.

The alleged victims, however, were not members of the church groups, they said. Police said Thompson had not paid his rental fee on a storage locker and when the owner opened it, he found hundreds of pictures of naked boys. The owner called police.

Detectives said they are searching for other possible victims and that after his arrest, Thompson told officers of sex acts with children dating back to the 1960s. ( AP 6/7/2000)

Dan Earl Allmond

Dan Earl Allmond, Youth Pastor of Tampa Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist Church, and a married man, suddenly resigned on December 9, 1998 and disappeared off the scene when the police were called in concerning a complaint made by a female high school student that she was having sex with the pastor as a minor. Senior Pastor McCormick of Tampa Baptist Church denied all knowledge about the sexual activities and ordered the staff of Tampa Baptist Academy to stay silent on the whole matter and not to discuss Dan's previous sexual escapades with no one! McCormick's own daughter was sexually promiscuous and had to leave school for a while for fear of being pregnant. (Tampa Tribune, 12/9/1998)

Cleveland “Rapper” Mack

Rev. Cleveland "Rapper" Mack, 24, of Tampa. Fla., was charged with sexually abusing 2 young boys during

"Bible lessons", including a charge of sexual battery which carries a possible death sentence. He struck a boy in the face when he tried to flee. (Tampa Tribune 5/31/1988)

W. PALM BEACHJoseph Millien

A former pastor who claimed he was testing a girl's virginity was convicted of sexually molesting the teenager. Rev. Joseph Millien, 51, was found guilty of felony sexual activity with the 17-year-old member of the Full Gospel Assembly Church, but acquitted of a sexual battery charge. He denied having any other sexual contact with the girl. The judge revoked Millien's bond and ordered him to jail until sentencing scheduled a few weeks later. Under sentencing guidelines, he could get 6 to 12 years in prison as a first-time offender. (AP, 10/28/1998)

One thought on “Florida

  1. charles Pentland, Jr.

    I attended trinity Baptist church Jacksonville,fl and heard bob gray preach. It,s sad that he was living a hypocritical life hurting young girls while preaching and getting big money for it. Notice these guilty people are seeking sympathy and act like they are the victims when they hurt young, innocent girls. He even confessed some but notice the lies and the untold part of it. .trust God and not man and let us practice what we preach. I was there from the spring of 1969 to1970 some time while in the navy. I did learn a lot of good things at trinity, but this sure puts a damper on it. let’s not be afraid to make people accountable so they won’t keep hurting .people.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *