Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pastor from South Carolina arrested for sexually abusing teen girl multiple times

SPARTANBURG, S.C - The pastor of The Church in Spartanburg, 27-year-old Ronald Thomas Norris of Roebuck, is charged with third degree criminal sexual conduct.

According to Lieutenant Kevin Bobo, an investigator with the sheriff's office Special Victim Unit was notified by a school official at Woodruff High School that a girl had been sexually assaulted.

The investigators obtained statements from the victim, her mother and the victim's boyfriend, and then approached Norris, who invoked his right to an attorney. Investigators took Norris into custody.

According to a report obtained from the sheriff's office, the victim told investigators that she had been sexually abused by Norris multiple times since she was 16-years-old. She stated that he touched her inappropriately and kissed her.

Bobo said that Norris is the pastor at The Church, located at 1855 East Main Street, Unit 14, Suite 130 in Spartanburg.

Spartanburg Detention Center says Norris was released on a $10,000 bond.

Kentucky pastor arrested for exposing his penis to 15 year old girl

Kevin Lohse, who police say is the acting pastor at Woodlawn Baptist Church, was arrested Wednesday on charges of exposing himself to a 15-year-old girl in Burkes Outlet. Police posted a still mage from video surveillance camera footage of the suspect on social media in an attempt to indentify the man.

"In the video [not disclosed to the public], you can clearly see Mr. Lohse manipulating his zipper, then exposing his penis to the 15-year-old girl," Russellville Police Detective Samantha Reeser told WBKO.

Even though the suspect had left the scene before police arrived, once his image was posted on the police department's Facebook page and was shared more than 600 times, he later turned himself in to authorities.

"A still image was taken from the video and posted to our Facebook page. We asked the community to help us identify the male. That picture quickly received a lot of attention and obvious concern, which resulted in Mr. Kevin Lohse reporting to the police department on Feb. 21, 2014, to turn himself in," said Reeser.

Authorities say that Lohse admitted to being accompioned by his 7-year-old son in the store. He was in the juniors section of the store when he allegedly exposed himself.

Ingrid Sweeney, who is a neighbor of Woodlawn Baptist Church, described Lohse's alleged actions as "just unbelievable, but you never know."

"People think just because he is a preacher (pause) well, preachers do everything that everyone else is doing," she told WBKO.

Sweeney added that she has a close relationship with many of the church's leadership and attributed Lohse's actions to something wrong that is with him and not his congregation.

"It's not the church. No, it's him. I feel horrible for his family, he must have went through some type of depression or something. Something must not have clicked up there," said Sweeney.

Lohse was released from jail on Thursday.

On Monday, the Russellville Police Department thanked the community for its help on its Facebook page.

"This is a prime example of community policing. Due to an overwhelming number of people who have shared this photo, we now have charges pending against the perpetrator in this case. You are our most valuable resource. Thank you!" the department wrote.

The comment thread showed several dozen community members relaying information about who to contact to move forward with information about the case.

California pastor arrested for having sexually explicit images of underage girls

An Oakdale youth pastor facing a local charge of possessing child pornography was arrested on federal charges Wednesday afternoon in Stanislaus Superior Court.

Tyler David Bliss, 27, was arrested on suspicion of receiving or distributing images of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, according to criminal complaint filed in federal court Friday.

It’s likely Bliss will appear in federal court today because he was taken into federal custody Wednesday afternoon, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento.

Bliss was a youth minister at Bethel Church when he was arrested Feb. 17. The Oakdale church on G Street is affiliated with the Assemblies of God. Wednesday, Bliss was taken away in handcuffs by two officials who served a federal arrest warrant for him in the downtown Modesto courtroom.

Bliss was questioned by investigators at the Ceres Police Department shortly after his arrest last month. He told the investigators he downloaded child porn images from a website, according to an affidavit filed by federal authorities March 14 in support of the criminal complaint.

As the investigation into Bliss continued, investigators found sexually explicit images of an underage girl with whom Bliss has had a relationship, according to the affidavit. The images were sent by cellphone from the girl to Bliss. “Bliss developed the relationship with the minor female through his work as a youth pastor,” the FBI agent wrote in the affidavit. Bliss had served in youth ministry at the church since 2009 and oversaw junior high, high school and college programs while pursuing a preaching license with the Assemblies of God.

A few days after Bliss’ arrest last month, Ted King, vice chairman of the church’s board, said the church was extremely shocked and would continue to cooperate with authorities in the investigation. King also said the church would not comment further until the case concludes, because of the nature of the charges.

Bliss told investigators he paid $12.95 per month for a website subscription and sent the child porn images to four other email accounts, where he stored the images, according to the affidavit.

“I know from training and experience that subjects who participate in the illegal trading of child pornography will often have numerous email accounts,” FBI agent Mark Lucas wrote in the affidavit. “This is because email service providers will often close down accounts that participate in illegal activity, thus forcing the suspects to resort to using alternate email accounts.”

Lucas said investigators found child porn images on Bliss’ laptop computer in his bedroom, his cellphone and a laptop computer found at the Oakdale church. Bliss told the investigators he has used the church computer to view child porn. The FBI agent wrote in the affidavit that Bliss said “he thought he was getting more adept at hiding his child pornography so that no one else would discover it.” After the police interview, Bliss was booked at the Stanislaus County Jail and later released on bail.

The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office initially charged Bliss with one felony count of possessing child porn. The defendant was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for the first time since his initial arrest.

Bliss appeared before the judge with defense attorney Kirk McAllister, who told the judge his client was going to plead not guilty to the local charge. They were about to discuss scheduling a pretrial hearing when the prosecutor spoke up.

Deputy District Attorney Rob Taro told the judge that the local prosecutors were dropping the child porn charge “in the interest of justice.”

Superior Court Judge John Whiteside then pulled up a document from the case file, telling the attorneys it was a federal arrest warrant for Bliss. Two officials standing in the courtroom aisle during the hearing approached Bliss from behind.

One of them told Bliss he was under arrest and read him his rights as the other placed handcuffs on him. As they were ushering him out of the courtroom, Bliss mouthed, “I love you,” to his family and supporters sitting in the audience.

Bliss ducked his head as he was walked out of the courthouse to avoid news photographers waiting to catch a glimpse of him. His family and supporters did not comment after the brief court hearing. McAllister also declined to comment about Bliss’ federal arrest. Ceres police officers searched Bliss’ Oakdale home, in the 600 block of Hudson Avenue, and the church, in the 100 block of East G Street, and confiscated the computers.

The Ceres Police Department’s High Tech Crimes task force initially investigated Bliss’ suspected activities. The investigation was launched after Google Inc. discovered a child porn image on Bliss’ email account and sent a tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The center then sent the information from Google to the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force. Ceres police Detective Britton Moore is assigned to the federally funded task force.

The initial image that alarmed Google and later investigators was of two girls who appeared to be 5 to 8 years old in a sexual act with an unidentified man, according to the affidavit.

Moore determined that Bliss’ email account had been used extensively for the purpose of trading in child pornography because investigators found on the account 286 images associated with the sexual exploitation of children and other child erotica, including bondage, according to the affidavit.

Google had disabled Bliss’ email account as soon as the original child porn files were discovered Dec. 2. Moore discovered that Bliss’ email account was used to send some child porn images to another email address registered to Bliss – at least 17 times from Oct. 11 through Dec. 1, according to the affidavit.

Bliss admitted to investigators that he was sexually attracted to girls ages 12 to 14 and viewed pornographic images of children as young as 4 years old, according to the affidavit.

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