Accusations follow minister across 3 states
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
By SUSAN DAKER
Allegations of improper behavior involving children have followed a youth minister from Biloxi to Mobile to Florida, where he now faces multiple counts of sexual abuse of teenagers, court records show.
Marshal Seymour, 40, was arrested last week in Lakeland, Fla., and remains jailed on charges of using a child in sexual performance, unlawful sexual activity with a minor and tampering with evidence.
Lakeland police said Seymour volunteered at First Baptist Church at the Mall there, meeting boys to whom he offered money or gifts for sex acts. He also offered one boy money to remain silent, police said. He was being held Wednesday at Polk County Jail in lieu of $325,000 bail, according to the jail log.
James "Rusty" Franklin, Seymour's lawyer in Florida, said his client has a constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. "I'm not going to try this case in the media," Franklin said.
Franklin said he was looking into the facts of the Mobile case.
Seymour relocated to Lakeland from Mobile in 1999 -- the same year that he pleaded guilty to third-degree assault of a teenage boy he knew from Parkway Assembly of God church on Dauphin Island Parkway. Three years later, the church's insurance company settled a lawsuit with the boy's family.
While the amount of the settlement award was undisclosed, lawsuit papers filed in Mobile County Circuit Court reveal claims that Seymour allegedly molested the B.C. Rain High School student nine times.
The civil case file includes testimony from a Biloxi pastor who said that Seymour quit his post as a youth minister in Biloxi after being caught alone giving a back massage to a teenage boy.
In Mobile, Seymour was a youth pastor at Parkway. A boy whom Seymour knew through the church said in a deposition that Seymour first propositioned him by offering him baseball cards if the boy would allow the youth pastor to measure his penis. The boy was 15 at the time.
The boy detailed instances of Seymour either masturbating him or performing oral sex on him in the church's parking lot, at the minister's home and at another home.
Parkway Pastor L.D. Henderson testified that he never suspected anything improper between Seymour and the boy. Henderson "says the church had no knowledge of the alleged acts until they had already been committed," court documents said.
Henderson testified that when he hired Seymour in 1995, the youth minister had "good papers" from his church work in Mississippi. He said that Seymour had been in his son's wedding, and that other Parkway members had vouched for him.
But Biloxi Pastor Jeff Fillmore said in a deposition that Seymour had departed his Mississippi job just before revelations that he had been found alone with a boy despite warnings to avoid such encounters.
Twice before, he said, Seymour had been in inappropriate situations with youths from the church, Northside Assembly of God. Fillmore said that Seymour had gone skinny-dipping with youths on a camping trip, and had pulled down the "britches" of a youth who was shooting basketball.
In the third incident, a Northside board member found Seymour alone with the board member's son, giving the boy a massage and rubbing his neck, according to a court motion.
Fillmore allowed Seymour to leave in good standing, meaning he could remain a minister. According to Fillmore's deposition, he said that if Seymour had "done something that was morally improper, that he would have never allowed him to leave with his 'papers.'"
Both the Biloxi and Mobile churches are members of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, which is a Pentecostal denomination.
Seymour has not been "credentialed" as a minister with the national organization of the Assemblies of God since 2000, according to the church headquarters in Springfield, Mo. It was unclear Tuesday whether Seymour's credentials were taken away from him or whether he didn't apply for his annual renewal.
No one was available for comment Tuesday at the Alabama District Offices of Assemblies of God in Montgomery.
Seymour graduated from Southeastern College of Assemblies of God in Lakeland in December of 1992, according to court records.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Youth minister arrested on sex charges, The Ledger, 11/4/07
Sexual abuse scandal hits prominent Southern Baptist church in Florida, EthicsDaily, 11/6/07
SNAP Note: First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Florida is an SBC-affiliated church.