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Florence pastor charged with sexual abuse

Coty Hand, the Assistant District Attorney in Lauderdale County, says they want anyone who thinks they were a victim to come forward.

Posted: Jul 1, 2019 3:43 PM
Updated: Jul 2, 2019 6:01 PM

A Florence pastor, John Martin, is being held in the Lauderdale County Detention Center on four counts of sexual abuse first-degree.

Coty Hand, the Assistant District Attorney in Lauderdale County, says Martin resigned as pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church and was arrested Friday night. He says they want anyone who thinks they were a victim to come forward.

John Martin

WAAY 31 was in Florence and spoke with people who live near the church. We learned John Martin confessed to his congregation about the crimes. 

According to the Lighthouse Baptist Church website, Martin has been preaching there since 2010. WAAY 31 reached out to several congregation members to ask about these accusations, but we have not gotten a response. 

A man who lives less than a block away from the church, Lewis Gist, said he had no idea something like this could have been going on down the street.

"You wouldn't expect it at a church. That would be the last place you expect it," Gist said.

The Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office says they believe the victims involved were children at the church. They would not say the ages, gender or how many victims they believe there are.

The sheriff's office did say the four charges against Martin could be all for one victim or for multiple victims, and the charges are for any child under 17 years old. His bond is set at $60,000.

The church's Facebook page shows out of 25 reviews, it has a 4.8 out of 5 rating. In one review, a woman said, "Pastor Martin I love you and your family. Thank you for making me and my children feel loved and welcome."

On Monday, someone commented on that review saying, "I hope your children were safe there."

The woman who wrote the review said they always were and went on to say she felt bad for Martin's wife and children.

WAAY 31 stopped by Martin's home and was asked to leave immediately. We combed through state court records and could not find a past criminal history for Martin. 

"My youngest grandson is 15. Something like that happened to him, I don't know what I'd do," Gist said.

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