Ronnie Gorton, above, a married father and lead pastor of The Awakening Church in Atoka, Tennessee, was indicted this week on 47 counts of illegal relations with three underage boys.
Among the charges, according to this report, are five counts of aggravated sexual battery, 17 counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, two counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child, 16 counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, two counts of exploitation of a minor by electronic means, two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, two counts of purchasing alcohol for a child, and one count of rape.
Tipton County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Billy Daugherty said:
The nature of these charges clearly indicate the victims, at some point, were under the age of 13. The age of consent in Tennessee is 18.
Gorton’s neighbors in Drummonds said they were surprised by the charges against him. One, Donnie Overbeck, said:
We knew he had a church and, you know, he had boys over there a lot. We thought, ‘Hey, he’s doing something good. He’s taking these kids in and doing good things.
Tipton County investigators said last month that that a 17-year-old boy came forward to allege that Gorton, 39, who has been married to his wife, Rhonda, for 15 years, sexually assaulted, molested, and raped him on multiple occasions. The Atoka Police Department also reported receiving a similar charge from a 20-year-old man who alleged that Gorton sexually assaulted him when he was underage.
Daugherty said that the latest instance of alleged assault by the preacher took place on January 31 and the case is a multi-jurisdictional investigation.
There’s an allegation in the county and an allegation in Atoka. But there’s nothing to indicate anything took place at the church.
I moved out of the house and filed for divorce in December after enduring years of abuse myself and knowing nothing about the current charges.
In a series of tweets just days before Rhonda’s statement, Christian blogger April Persisting said Gorton and his wife once attended the same church she attended and she always sensed he abused her.
Let me tell you about Ronnie Gorton. He came to my church when he was 23, newly graduated from Bible school, dating a sweet young woman that he soon married. I was just out of high school.
He caused a bit of a stir when he showed up, because my church didn’t have tons of eligible young Christian men, and he was relative good looking. But when I interacted with him, I came away feeling cold and unimpressed.
After accusations were made against him, it was reported that Gorton had been taken in for a psychiatric evaluation for allegedly threatening to commit suicide.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn