Pierce's charges growing

The Benton Courier

May 6, 2009

David Pierce, the former minister of music at Benton’s First Baptist Church, now faces 54 counts of sexual indecency with a child.

Pierce, 56, was re-arrested at his home around 8:15 a.m. today, taken to the Saline County Detention Center in Benton, booked again and then released on the same $25,000 bond set by District Judge Mike Robinson in an April 27 hearing in Benton District Court.

Four alleged victims are involved in the 54 counts, Sheriff Bruce Pennington said in a news conference this morning at his office in the detention center.

Pennington said Pierce was arrested today on the 53 additional counts of the Class D felony. He was taken into custody initially on one count of the same charge April 24. That arrest occurred on a Friday and he remained in jail until a bond hearing the following Monday.

After his release today, he left the detention facility with his attorney, Mark Hampton of Little Rock, formerly of Benton.

Dr. Rick Grant, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Benton, said church officials have “cooperated fully with the authorities and will continue to do that.”

Pennington corroborated this situation in today’s conference in which he said he expects additional charges to be forthcoming.

The current charges relate to incidents that have occurred in the past three years and all of those alleging the abuse are still teenagers, Pennington said. All of the alleged victims are or were part of the church’s youth choir program, Pure Energy, which Pierce directed.

He said the kind of activity alleged to have occurred is believed to date back as far as 15 years, he said.
The incidents on which the allegations are based “occurred in and around rural areas of Saline County and also occurred in the church ... ,” Pennington said.

None of the alleged incidents occurred on choir tours, he said.

He noted that computers and ledgers used by Pierce have been seized and taken to the Arkansas Crime Lab for analysis. He declined to elaborate on what information these contained, but acknowledged that pornographic material was involved.

Pennington said Pierce was released under his previous bond arrangement because he is not considered a flight risk. He is scheduled for a June 9 court hearing.

“He has followed the conditions of his bail,” Pennington said.

Pierce must adhere to the same “no contact” terms that were set by Robinson when he was previously released from jail.

The court order states that Pierce may have no contact with church leadership, including but not limited to the pastor, the chairman of deacons, the church Personnel Committee, or any church employee except his son.

He is barred from having any contact with “any child under the age of 18 to whom he is not related” and prohibited from “using third parties to circumvent these conditions.” Specifically, the order states that Pierce may not use Facebook, MySpace “or any other form of passive Internet communication” and previously was ordered to surrender his passport.

Pennington said investigators are continuing to interview alleged victims, adding that he believes “there will be more.”

He urged anyone who may have been a victim to come forward, saying some may not have done so out of fear.

“They have done nothing wrong,” Pennington said.

Pennington said he is not aware of anyone having suspicions of improper behavior on Pierce’s part before the first allegations were raised about three weeks ago.

The sheriff said Pierce did not converse with him today when he was arrested. “I spoke to him ... and he was quiet,” Pennington said.

“This investigation is still in the early stages,” Pennington said.

In addition to church officials, parents of the youths involved have been cooperative. “They’re supportive of their children,” he added.

“The individuals who have accused Pierce of the sexual acts say their abuse began when they were “probably 15,” the sheriff said.

He said he isn’t aware whether any alleged victim was aware that others had experienced similar abuse at the time of the the alleged incidents.

Pierce served as music minister at First Baptist for 29 years.

Grant said church members and staff are “praying for wisdom in our words, strength of courage, and healing for everyone involved.”

“We serve a great God and we refuse to lose sight of that.”


SNAP note: First Baptist Church in Benton, Arkansas is as an SBC-affiliated church.

See also:

Judge to Pierce: No contacts, Benton Courier, 4/28/09

3 more claim abuse by former minister, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 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