Pastor faces 152 counts

Published 12:43am Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The former pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship is now facing charges on 152 “atrocious acts” stemming from allegations he sexually abused and tortured young boys while on camping trips.

At a press conference Tuesday, Covington County Sheriff Dennis Meeks and the case’s lead investigator Wesley Snodgrass revealed the current scope of the case against 54-year-old Ralph Lee Aaron.

The investigation began last Tuesday after a mother, who had heard rumors of a previous incident involving Aaron, had a “straightforward” conversation with her son. That incident stemmed from a 2005 complaint that occurred while Aaron was serving at Andalusia’s Victory Baptist Church. No charges were filed in the 2005 complaint, which was investigated by the Covington County District Attorney’s office and the Department of Human Resources.

As a result of that conversation, the mother determined her son may have had inappropriate contact with Aaron, and she elected to contact authorities.

“Surprisingly, (the victim) was open and honest, and they discussed it at length before contacting law enforcement,” Snodgrass said. “It was quickly identified as a substantial case.”

When officers arrived at Aaron’s home Tuesday night, they seized numerous items of computer equipment and camera equipment. Snodgrass said they found more than 100 pornographic images Aaron allegedly downloaded from the Internet as well as some images taken of his alleged local victims.

As the investigation continued, it was determined the majority of Aaron’s alleged victims ranged in age from 8 to 12 and were all male. No specific number of victims was released, as the investigation is still ongoing.

Snodgrass said the alleged abuse occurred when Aaron, while acting in his capacity as pastor, took the boys on camping trips to local areas. It is not believed any of these incidents occurred at the church, Snodgrass said.

“We also have some evidence that shows other abuse occurred at Aaron’s residence,” he said.

However, there is no evidence that shows Aaron’s family had any knowledge of his actions, he said.

“From all accounts, Mr. Aaron was believed to be a decent man, but he obviously had a secret life,” he said. “He was able to do (these acts) because he befriended (the parents), the children and the church family. That’s how he got into their lives.”

Aaron is now charged with the following:

38 counts of production of obscene matter containing visual depiction of a person under 17 involved in obscene acts.

three counts of dissemination of obscene matter containing visual depiction of persons under 17 involved in obscene acts.

97 counts of obscene matter containing visual depiction of persons under 17 involved in obscene acts.

three counts of sexual torture.

three counts of first-degree sodomy.

eight counts of sexual abuse of a child less than 12.

He is currently being held in the Covington County Jail, where he is separated from the general population “for his own safety,” Snodgrass said. His bond is set at $24.2 million.

Aaron could face additional charges as the case continues, Snodgrass said.

“I would say that Mr. Aaron has not been fully cooperative throughout this investigation and, in my opinion, seems completely and entirely unremorseful,” Snodgrass said. “Right now, he’s more concerned about his current situation than he is with anything else or our victims.”

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