KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A congregation is in shock after their pastor was arrested and charged with three counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian.
“[The church] is in limbo, don't know what we're going to do,” said a member of the United Gospel Mission who asked not to be identified because of the nature of the crimes.
Deputies from the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office tell WSAZ.com that Johnnie Franklin Winnell of Gypsum Lane in Elkview confessed Friday to abusing the young girl. Capt. Sean Crosier said the abuse happened during several years.
Neighbor Patricia Strickland says she'd never imagine the man she's lived beside for 20 years could do such things. She said her young granddaughter even plays at Winnell's house and, while she trusts him, she feared the worst when she heard the news.
“I talked to her, and she said he's never done anything, or done anything out the way,” Strickland said.
As of Monday evening, Winnell was at the South Central Regional Jail. He declined to comment.
Deputies are investigating the extent of the abuse and the possibility that there may be other victims.