Church Leaders Face Sexual Assault Charges in Court
By: Kate Scott
(Marble Hill, MO)--Three Heartland church leaders made a trip from the pulpit to the courtroom Thursday, after being accused of sexually assaulting another church member.
The three men from the Marble Hill Bible Chapel were charged with sexual assault, after they allegedly had sex with a mentally challenged 23-year old. Prosecutor Stephen Gray says the victim has the mental capacity of a young child, and was not capable of deciding to have consensual sex. Gray is trying to prove that there's enough evidence for each case to go to trial.
On Thursday afternoon, the three men began their preliminary hearings, which included more than six hours of witness testimony. 43 year old Frank Burgess is the first church member the victim says she had sex with. Burgess is a part-time preacher at the Bible Chapel, and according to his attorney, denies any relationship with the victim. But during Thursday’s hearing, Gray spent a lot of time trying to establish that Burgess contracted Hepatitis-B from the victim, who is the only known carrier of the disease in Bollinger County.
While that relationship was going on, the victim claims 67-year old song leader Hurley Dixon also started sleeping with her. She says they had sex at his home, in his truck, and in the church nursery. She also says that Dixon would signal from the church to her home next-door, when he wanted to get together. During the hearing, police witnesses said they found several items the victim described, including hidden condoms, in Dixon’s home and truck.
The third defendant is 44-year old Bruce Johnson, a Sunday school teacher and youth group leader at the church. According to the victim, she and Johnson had sex many times in four different locations, including the church Sunday school room. She says Johnson also tied her up with his belt at least one time. When a police computer expert took the witness stand, he said he searched Johnson’s computer hard drive and found many pornographic images of bondage, but no images of the victim.
The judge made no definite decisions about the future of the cases on Thursday. All three of the hearings were continued, until the judge can hear from a psychologist who has analyzed the victim’s mental capacity. That will happen on March 14th.
Right now, none of the defense attorneys are saying much, except that they’re all thinking about asking for a change of venue, in order to move the case out of Bollinger County.