Pastor Arraigned in Missouri Church Sex Abuse Case

Associated Press, carried in
November 22, 2006

Pineville, Mo. - A pastor accused in a case of alleged ritual sex abuse by several leaders at two southwest Missouri church communes will have a pretrial conference next month after pleading not guilty to abusing a girl from his congregation.

George Otis Johnston, 63, was arraigned Tuesday on nine felony counts of child molestation and statutory sodomy. Those charges are split between eight counts for acts alleged to have happened in Newton County and one count from neighboring McDonald County. The abuse was alleged to have begun when the girl was 11 and lasted until she was 15.

Johnston, pastor of Grandview Valley Baptist Church North in rural Granby near Neosho, has also pleaded not guilty to eight similar counts in Newton County of abusing the girl's younger sister over an eight-year period beginning when she was 8.

The older sister is now 20. The younger sister is now 17.

Johnston has ties to Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church in McDonald County. That church's pastor, the pastor's wife, two deacons and one of the deacon's wife are facing charges of child sexual abuse and child endangerment. Those five have also pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors allege the church leaders used their religious authority to take advantage of the victims, sometimes as part of a ceremony or ritual.

Johnston is scheduled to go on trial February 23 in the case of the younger sister.

On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Tim Perigo set a Dec. 4 pretrial conference in the Newton County case involving the older sister and Jan. 16 for a pretrial conference on the McDonald County charge involving her.


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