A complaint by a 14-year-old girl led Statesboro Police to arrest the youth pastor of a local church Tuesday.
Detectives arrested Douglas Randall Pope, 31, South Zetterower Avenue, on charges of child molestation and enticing a child for indecent purposes, said Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner. Computers, cameras and other digital media were seized from Pope’s home during the execution of a search warrant.
When the victim spoke to police Friday, she identified Pope as the youth pastor for Merrywood Baptist Church and said he had been sexually molesting her and others for some time, he said.
Wednesday, no one from the church could be reached for comment.
The girl told Det. Ben Purvis and Det. Sgt. James Winskey Pope had been touching her and otherwise behaving inappropriately over the course of the past two years. When she said other juvenile girls had been victimized as well, detectives interviewed the other victims, who filed complaints of their own, he said.
Pope was present Tuesday when police searched his house and seized the electronic items. He then went to the Statesboro Police Department for questioning, and was arrested afterwards.
“As a result of this
investigation and the interview with Pope, he was arrested and charged with three counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes and one count of child molestation,” Turner said. Further charges are likely pending, he added.
Merrywood Baptist Church personnel were informed of the charges and Pope’s arrest and are cooperating with police, he said.
While no one affiliated with Merrywood Baptist Church was available Wednesday, the pastor of another church nearby commented on the incident.
“It greatly saddens my heart to hear of this tragic event, and is a great embarrassment to those of us who strive to uphold the moral virtues of Scripture,” said Wayne Miracle, pastor of New Life Fellowship Free Will Baptist Church in Statesboro.
“However, we must understand this is only a byproduct of the sex-crazed culture in which we live. We that dare to call ourselves ‘Christian’ must double our efforts to establish, and maintain, our reputation of integrity among our community, so that people who come to us for spiritual help can do so in a loving, caring and safe environment. My prayers go out to the family of the offended, the pastor, and the entire church.”
In 2007, James Russell Rogers, former pastor of Leefield Baptist Church, was sentenced to 75 years (25 to serve) by Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. Turner after he pled guilty to charges of child molestation and enticing a child for indecent purposes.
In 1989, former Grace Baptist Temple Church pastor Henry Bazil Waters was convicted of molesting young boys in his home and car. After his release from prison, in the early 2000s Waters was arrested again upon his return to the United States from Costa Rica, again on child molestation charges.
Turner said the investigation is ongoing and “additional charges are anticipated. Anyone with information concerning this case is asked to contact the Criminal Investigative Bureau of the Statesboro Police Department at (912)764-9911,” he said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.