3 more claim abuse by former minister
BY GINNY LAROE
April 28, 2009
BENTON - At least three men have come forward saying they were sexually abused as teenagers by a longtime Baptist minister who was arrested last week after a teenager reported a 2006 instance, records released Monday say.
David Kent Pierce, the former music minister at Benton's First Baptist Church, was arrested on a felony count of sexual indecency with a child, according to an arrest report.
When church leaders became aware of possible abuse, they contacted authorities and provided investigators with the names of the three adult church members who also said they were abused by Pierce when they were younger, court records say.
Pierce, 56, of Benton showed teenage boys pornography on a church computer, engaged in sexually explicit conversations and took detailed measurements of their bodies, according to allegations in a search warrant application for Pierce's home.
The indecency charge stems from a 17-year-old boy's claim that Pierce took him to a lake cabin when the boy was 15 and made him measure his own genitals while Pierce watched and took notes, which he called "charting," the arrest report says. Sexual indecency with a child is a Class D felony punishable by up to six years in prison.
Pierce could face additional charges as the investigation continues, said Lt. Mike Frost, investigations supervisor with the Saline County sheriff's office.
"We're still interviewing victims," Frost said, noting that some allegations date "back a number of years."
He said some of the accusations may be too old to prosecute. Still, the information is being used to corroborate statements, he said.
The arrest report makes no allegation that Pierce touched the boy's genitals, and the sheriff's office would not discuss specifics, saying the case is ongoing.
Pierce has denied any touching.
"While I fully acknowledge the sinfulness and immorality of my past behavior, I did not engage in actual sexual contact (specifically oral sex, intercourse or masturbating another individual) with any person," Pierce wrote in a letter to church leaders. The letter was quoted in court records.
He also wrote that he didn't think his actions "have violated criminal or civil law."
Pierce was fired from the church April 18 after admitting to "serious moral failures," pastor Rick Grant told church members that next Sunday.
"I'm heartsick over all of this," Grant said in a prepared statement. "During my 20-plus years in the ministry here, this is the most difficult thing I've had to deal with, by far."
Some 2,200 people, including Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington, attend the brick church off the downtown square.
Pennington said this is one of the most "difficult" cases he has been involved with.
"Any time we have something against a child, [it] is certainly tragic," he said.
It wasn't immediately clear who is representing Pierce, though deputy prosecutor Rebecca Bush said during a hearing Monday that an Arkadelphia attorney had been retained. That attorney was not present.
Pierce, wearing a striped jail uniform, said little as he appeared on a television screen in District Judge Mike Robinson's courtroom. Bail hearings in Saline County are conducted remotely, with inmates remaining at the jail.
Robinson set bail at $25,000 and ordered Pierce to have no contact with his accuser.
SNAP note: First Baptist Church in Benton, Arkansas is as an SBC-affiliated church.
Pierce's charges growing, Benton Courier, 5/6/09
Judge to Pierce: No contacts, Benton Courier, 4/28/09
Pierce set for bond hearing, Benton Courier, 4/27/09
Benton Choir Minister Arrested for Sexual Indecency with a Child, KTHV-TV, 4/25/09
Prominent Ark. music minister arrested for indecency with minor, Associated Baptist Press, 4/27/09
Baptist church sticking by pastor facing sex charges, Associated Baptist Press, 5/7/09
SNAP statement: Sex abuse victims prod Baptist church's prior leaders to search consciences, 4/30/09