Former CH preacher enters guilty pleas

August 2, 2002

Daily Mountain Eagle (Jasper, AL)

Section: News

In his chambers Friday afternoon, Walker County District Judge Don Bevill accepted the "best interest" guilty plea of John Anderson, a former Carbon Hill First Baptist preacher charged with three counts of first-degree sexual abuse.

Anderson, who reportedly often went by the name "Bill," admitted guilt to the Class C felony charges involving juveniles under the age of 12 years. Anderson served as preacher at Carbon Hill First Baptist for several years between the early and mid 1990's.


Earlier Friday afternoon, Anderson also entered a "best interest" guilty plea in a Franklin County court on charges stemming from that area.


During his tenure as a minister, he had also reportedly been a pulpit preacher at Southside Baptist in Russellville, Natural Bridge Baptist, West Blocton Baptist, Hartselle Baptist and other churches in Mississippi.


During the Walker County proceedings, Melinda Morgan Austin, who served as Anderson's representation, stated that he chose to enter a "best-interest" guilty plea because "he does not contest what the state's evidence would be" and understands the substantial risk of being convicted and being required to serve a longer prison term.


Under the plea agreement, Bevill sentenced Anderson to a 10-year split sentence, in which he will serve three years in a state prison and the remaining seven years under probation. Bevill denied a request to grant Anderson credit for time served in a Franklin County jail, where he has been incarcerated since last December.


Anderson will also be required to complete a sexual abuse program, pay restitution to victims if ordered, register as a sexual offender, and have no contact with the victims.


According to Walker County Assistant District Attorney Connie Morrow, Anderson's guilty plea will also be in the best interest of the child victims, who now will not be required to go through jury court proceedings.


Anderson will remain in the Walker County Jail until he can be transferred to a state prison. Anderson indicated his intent to waive rights of extradition to face other charges, including rape, in Arkansas. The Arkansas charges were the initial allegations that led to the charges of which he entered guilty pleas in Alabama.


At the conclusion of Friday's hearing, Morrow credited family members of the victims, Walker County District Attorney Charles Baker and child abuse unit investigator James Underwood for their work and assistance in the case against Anderson.


Underwood, who Baker hired 18 months ago to work primarily on child abuse cases, said sexual abuse cases against children can be difficult because parents often fail to believe their children when told of the abuse, there are often no witnesses and little, if any, physical evidence. He urged parents to be more proactive by teaching their children about their bodies and who should or should not touch them.


"Parents should make their children aware of where their private areas are and who is allowed to touch those areas," Underwood said. "They should also be instructed to tell an adult should someone, who should not be allowed, touches them there."


The investigator also indicated that more than 50 percent of cases of sexual abuse against a child are committed by someone either the parent or child knows.


"It's not always a stranger," he said.


Underwood also complimented Baker for his strong emphasis on capturing and convicting those who prey on women and children.


"Mr. Baker has seen fit to put a lot of resources into training and equipping this unit for learning the characteristics of and identifying these type of predators," Underwood said. "I believe it is paying off as more are being caught and removed from the streets of Walker County."

SNAP Note: Carbon Hill First Baptist in Alabama is shown as an SBC-affiliated church.