A 72-year-old pastor was arrested Wednesday (18 October) on child molestation charges following an investigation into sexual assault allegations by at least five girls under the age of 10.
Garry Evans, a pastor at Rushville Baptist Temple Church in Indiana, was charged with three counts of child molestation, four counts of sexual battery and five counts of child solicitation, Fox59 reported.
An investigation into Evans' alleged behaviour was launched on 4 September when a 3-year-old girl told her mother about an incident in Evans' office. The girl's mother then reported the incident to the Department of Child Services.
The girl told investigators that Evans lured her into his office by promising her candy. Once in his office, Evans allegedly pulled down his pants and forced the girl to touch his penis. The girl said he then told her not to tell anyone what had happened.
According to Fox59, officers executed a search warrant at the church in the 1300 block of North Spence Street on 22 September. "There's not been a day gone by that we haven't done something associated with this case," Rushville Police Chief Craig Tucker said.
The girl's allegations led women in the congregation to ask their daughters about it. Court documents reveal that police interviewed four more girls under the age of 10 who also claimed to have been molested by Evans.
One girl told police that Evans touched her "nearly every time she went to church". When she told him "no," he allegedly just laughed.
Another girl also said Evans regularly touched her and that she once told him to stop and left the room because it made her uncomfortable, Fox59 reported. All the girls reported Evans lured them into his office by promising them candy.
According to the Rushville Republican, it is believed the incidents occurred over a number of years.
Police believe there may be more victims and are urging parents to look for signs of potential abuse.
"If you have a child who has exhibited unusual behaviour after being in the vicinity of the church or this pastor and you believe there has been something that has happened to this child that might indicate something inappropriate happened, we definitely want them to give us a call," Tucker said.
Evans is being held without bond at the Rush County Jail.