STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

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.

Huntsville
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 82°
Florence
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 81°
Fayetteville
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 75°
Decatur
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 74°
Scottsboro
Broken Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 75°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12486232
Mobile9420204
Montgomery6449148
Madison516130
Tuscaloosa405769
Baldwin338023
Unassigned319060
Shelby316432
Marshall306034
Lee258844
Morgan229517
Etowah204128
DeKalb174513
Calhoun167213
Elmore167238
Walker149864
Houston134812
Dallas130523
St. Clair128915
Russell12772
Limestone126113
Franklin123820
Cullman118912
Colbert114113
Lauderdale112315
Autauga105021
Escambia104416
Talladega96713
Jackson9244
Tallapoosa84179
Chambers83538
Dale80223
Blount7593
Butler75635
Chilton7456
Coffee7365
Covington71620
Pike6877
Lowndes56724
Barbour5655
Marion56224
Marengo53614
Clarke4949
Hale46426
Bullock45011
Winston44011
Perry4364
Wilcox41410
Bibb4134
Monroe4084
Randolph39410
Conecuh37810
Pickens3779
Sumter36018
Lawrence3321
Macon32013
Washington32012
Crenshaw3123
Choctaw27712
Cherokee2587
Greene24911
Henry2493
Geneva2480
Clay2375
Lamar2122
Fayette1835
Cleburne1251
Coosa1012
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 116350

Reported Deaths: 1186
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby22212300
Davidson20001211
Rutherford629853
Hamilton588449
Knox429837
Williamson340525
Sumner331672
Unassigned30368
Out of TN283116
Wilson219023
Bradley181712
Montgomery181513
Sevier17916
Putnam167716
Trousdale15786
Robertson150619
Hamblen134614
Blount12229
Maury11597
Tipton11559
Washington11312
Madison98415
Bedford90111
Sullivan89512
Hardeman85815
Macon85513
Lake7650
Loudon7053
Bledsoe6861
Dickson6521
Fayette6528
Anderson6516
Gibson6444
Dyer5937
Cheatham5697
Lawrence5276
Jefferson5253
Henderson5172
Rhea5171
McMinn50920
Obion4904
Coffee4823
Warren4794
Carter4735
Lauderdale4558
Hardin4447
Cocke4392
Haywood4356
Smith4294
Roane4232
Greene4187
Hawkins4167
Cumberland3986
Monroe3979
Giles36913
Weakley3633
McNairy3515
DeKalb3312
Franklin3024
Marshall2753
Carroll2723
Lincoln2681
Crockett2534
Henry2480
Hickman2480
White2465
Claiborne2420
Campbell2291
Johnson2250
Wayne2242
Marion2134
Chester2062
Grainger1890
Decatur1883
Polk1853
Overton1551
Unicoi1480
Union1410
Cannon1360
Benton1261
Humphreys1183
Jackson1121
Scott1100
Grundy1082
Sequatchie1000
Meigs990
Morgan981
Fentress790
Hancock771
Perry770
Stewart740
Clay710
Lewis671
Houston560
Moore550
Van Buren350
Pickett301

Community Events