By Heartland News
JONESBORO, IL (KFVS) - The group "Friends of the Cross" put President Bill Vandergraph on administrative leave, following his arrest on child sex assault charges.
Acting President Jeff Lingle tells Heartland News he hopes the case against Vandergraph does not hurt continued efforts to raise money for the restoration of the huge cross at Bald Knob.
In the meantime, the attorney representing Vandergraph calls the allegations against him "completely out of character."
"Mr. Vandergraph has been a minister for 50 years", says his attorney, Allen James. James says he hasn't had a chance yet to talk to the 72 year old about the charge against him, but he's well aware of the pastor's background with the church and with children.
"He's developed daycare centers and been a foster parent for many years and has even adopted some children", James tells Heartland News.
But now, the great-grandfather is accused of molesting a young child. Vandergraph sobbed openly as the Union County sheriff led him to court Friday morning.
"There are a lot of things that happen in the community that we'd all rather not happen", admits Union County Prosecuting Attorney Tyler Edmonds.
Edmonds charged Vandergraph with one count of predatory criminal sexual assault. "It's a class X felony", Edmonds explains, "basically an act of sexual conduct by someone over the age of 17 with a person under the age of 13."
According to Edmonds, the alleged crime took place between January and May of this year.
Vandergraph left court with a lower bond, and a message not to talk publicly about his case. He bonded out of jail a short time later.
Vandergraph will be back in court for his preliminary hearing August 13th.
The charge Vandergraph faces carries a prison term of 6 to 60 years.