GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - Gaston County police said they’ve charged a pastor with multiple sex offenses against children.
Police said they arrested Jerry Lewis Friday, 61, on Thursday. Friday has been pastor at New Providence Baptist Church in Mount Holly for nearly two decades.
Authorities said multiple victims were identified during the investigation. They said the sex crimes occurred on church property and at private homes.
Police said Friday was arrested at his home in Gastonia. He’s charged with one count of felony statutory sex offense, four counts of felony indecent liberties with a child, one count of felony disseminating obscene material to a minor and two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery.
Concerned neighbor Timothy Morton said children play around the church all the time.
"Lock him up and throw away the key,” Morton said.
Gaston County police said that, three weeks ago, a former church member came to them with a complaint and told a troubling secret in the church.
Two others then came forward.
All three are girls who were reportedly between the ages of 13 and 17 when they said their pastor made them watch porn and did lewd things at the church or at his home or their homes.
"This is where I got baptized. This is my family church,” said Bre Boatwright, who said Friday was like a father figure who never violated her trust. "Kind of shocked. Kind of hurt a little bit because I never looked at him like that. I never got those vibes."
Timothy Reid, who lives behind the church, said the pastor was always busy at the church, and most times, there were other adults around.
"I can't see how this right here can come about. I mean he would have to be awful sneaky,” Reid said. "I just can't see it."
Friday didn’t say anything in his own defense in court Thursday.
Friday is being held at the Gaston County jail on a $1 million bond.
Police are asking anyone with information about this case to call detectives at (704) 866-3320 or CrimeStoppers at (704) 861-8000.
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