Columbus Dispatch [Columbus OH]
July 5, 2022
By Danae King Julie Fulton
A list released by the Southern Baptist Convention of more than 700 pastors and church personnel who have allegedly abused people includes 12 Ohio pastors and two others with connections to the state.
Here is information about each individual and the allegations involving them, as provided by public records, news reports and the list itself.
‘Scourge of sexual abuse’: Southern Baptists respond to list of accused Ohio pastors
Lonny ‘Joe’ Aleshire Jr.
Church: Licking Baptist Church in Hebron
Accusation: Sexually assaulting two teenaged girls — sisters — who attended the church where he was an associate pastor.
Outcome: Aleshire pleaded guilty to one count of rape, six counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and three misdemeanor counts of sexual imposition in 2005. He served nearly seven years in prison and five years of probation.
More: A year after he pleaded guilty, Aleshire took it back, filing a motion to withdraw the plea, blaming his attorney and saying there was new evidence of his innocence, according to a Dispatch article. The court denied that appeal and several more of his motions.
The family sued him in 2007 for damages and won a $4.35 million judgment in 2012. The SBC list further states that the family requested to meet with the denomination, the American Baptist Churches of Ohio, but that no meeting took place.
The victims’ family was ostracized and blamed for Aleshire’s abuse, and church members hosted a candlelight vigil for him, according to the list.
The most recent public records available indicate that Aleshire, now 51, is living in Hebron.
Church: Mount Ararat Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland and Central Bible Baptist Church in Cleveland Heights
Accusation: Rape, gross sexual imposition and kidnapping of two girls, one his stepdaughter and another a deaf girl.
Outcome: Biles pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 17 years of incarceration in July 2007. Now 69, Biles entered the Marion Correctional Institution in August 2007. His most recent motion for judicial release was denied in February 2021.
More: A July 2007 Cleveland.com article states that at his sentencing hearing, Biles tried to take back his previous admission that he raped the two girls, but was denied by the judge. One of the girls was a 12-year-old deaf child who was left in his care for a weekend in 2005, when he was serving at Mount Ararat. His other victim — his stepdaughter — was molested for seven years, according to the article.
John H. Burghard
Church: Not listed
Accusation: Importuning (defined as requesting or offering sex) a minor
Outcome: Burghard was found guilty on April 21, 2003 and sentenced to 12 months in prison, according to court documents.
More: The list has few details on Burghard, but public records show the 73-year-old’s address as being in Fredericktown.
Church: Victory Baptist Church in Milford Center in Union County
Accusation: Importuning and attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor after talking with an undercover police officer who was posing as a 15-year-old girl in a chatroom.
Outcome: Burton was convicted and sentenced to 12 months in prison, according to a 2006 Dayton Daily News article.
More: He pleaded no contest, according to the article, and prosecutors said he went to Fairborn in November 2005 to meet with a girl and brought a camera. He was labeled a “sexually oriented offender” and had to register with local authorities once released from prison. Court records show that he was required to register for 10 years after 2006, meaning his requirement expired in 2016.
Public records indicate that Burton died in November 2021 at age 71.
Church: First Baptist Church in Mount Orab, near Cincinnati, according to the Ledger Independent, a news outlet in Maysville, Kentucky.
Accusation: Three counts of unlawful sexual contact with a minor, according to the list.
Outcome: Engle was convicted of two counts of unlawful sexual contact with a minor in 2012. He served time in prison from Oct. 17, 2013, to Oct. 14, 2015. He is registered as a Tier II sex offender in Ohio.
More: The Ledger Independent wrote in May 2013 — the same month that Engle turned himself in to local police — that he was a youth minister and was indicted for inappropriate contact with a 15-year-old girl.
According to the news outlet, there were three incidents cited in the indictment, which happened between November 2012 and April 2013. The church fired Engle after the allegations, which arose when the girl reported what happened to another minister and was told to contact police.
Engle, now 58, was last listed as living in Bethel in Clermont County, according to public records.
Claude Steven Harmon
Church: Maineville Baptist Church
Accusation: Fondling 9- and 10-year-old boys between June and September 2004, with one additional charge dating to 2001, according toa July 2013 article by the Commonwealth Journal, a news outlet in Somerset, Kentucky. Harmon told investigators that abuse occurred in Ohio and in Pulaski County, Kentucky, where he spent time at Camp Victory, which his church had rented.
Outcome: Harmon was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the Ohio case, and he served time in the Chillicothe Correctional Institution after he pleaded guilty in April 2005 to no fewer than 10 counts of sexual imposition, according to the Commonwealth Journal.
He also was sentenced by a Kentucky judge in 2013 to 10 years in prison for two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, the news outlet reported.
He was told to register for life as a sex offender. The allegations also prompted a 2009 civil suit against Camp Victory by a victim of Harmon; the victim later dismissed the case.
More: Harmon was pastor for 15 years at Maineville Baptist and a former employee of Landmark Baptist Temple, in Cincinnati, according to the SBC list.
He is registered as a sexual predator, and Ohio’s judicial system identifies him as Claude Steven Harmon, though the SBC list first names him as Clyde Stephen Harmon. Now 65, he lives in Xenia, according to public records.
Richard C. Mick
Church: Lighthouse Baptist Church in Sandusky
Accusation: He is serving time for one count of rape and eight counts of gross sexual imposition.
Outcome: Mickwas sentenced to life in prison in 2016 before the conviction was overturned two years later on appeal because his attorney refused to participate in the trial, according to a 2019 Sandusky Register article.
In 2020, the Register wrote that he was sentenced to life in prison again, plus three years. His attorney at the time said he should be eligible for parole in 10 years and then would have to register as a sex offender.
More: A 2016 article by WNWO-TV (NBC 24), an affiliate in Toledo, states that Mick was alleged to have sexual contact with a young child an unknown number of times between 2006 and 2010. The NBC 24 article states he was charged in 2014 with sexual contact with the 5-year-old boy.
A 2019 Sandusky Register article said at least two of his three victims belonged to the church where he worked.
Mick is now 61. He was admitted to the Richland Correctional Institution in October 2020. The State of Ohio lists his release date/eligibility for parole date as March 2031.
Aaron D. Rediger
Church: Liberty Baptist Church in Van Wert, where he was a youth pastor.
Accusation: Arrested in 2006 for abusing a 17-year-old girl, who was a member of the church’s youth group, according to a September 2006 Van Wert Times Bulletin article.
Outcome: In February 2007, Rediger pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery and was sentenced to two years in prison on each count, to be served concurrently. Originally ordered to register as a sex offender in Ohio, the order was later judged unconstitutional and removed.
More: A December 2006 Toledo Blade article states that Rediger was convicted on two of the original counts facing him, with one dismissed. The article also indicated that Rediger began engaging in sexual conduct with the 17-year-old girl in August 2005 and continued until August 2006.
Rediger is now 43 and living in Purcellville, Virginia. He is registered as a sex offender in Virginia for the offenses committed in Ohio.
Charles W. Savage
Church: Freedom Baptist Temple in Xenia
Accusation: In 2010, Savage was accused of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and sexual battery for abuse that happened between 1990 and 1996, according to the SBC list.
Outcome: In April 2013, Savage pleaded guilty to an amended charge of sexual imposition in Adams County Common Pleas Court because the alleged abuse is believed to have taken place in West Union. He was sentenced to two years of community control, also known as probation,and 100 hours of community service, half of which had to be performed in Adams County. His community control was terminated in April 2015.
More: The Ledger Independent, a news outlet in Maysville, Kentucky, wrote a September 2010 article stating that the child attended the church where Savage was working. The most recent public records available show that Savage is now 78 and living in Xenia.
Church: Berea Baptist Church in Olmsted Falls
Accusation: An April 2008 Cleveland.com article states that Workman was indicted on 15 counts of sexual abuse by a grand jury and was accused of having a relationship with a minor in a youth group; the relationship began in 2004, when she was 15. The article states that the woman confirmed she had a “voluntary” sexual relationship with him.
Outcome: According to Cuyahoga County court records, Workman, then 33, pleaded guilty in October 2008 to a charge of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. He was sentenced to four years in prison and five years of community control. In January 2011, his sentence was modified to three years in prison and one year of community control. His probation ended in October 2012.
More: The SBC list states he was a youth minister at the church. He resigned from his position with the church in January 2008, after the woman became pregnant with his child, according to Cleveland.com. The church’s pastor reported the situation to the police, who began investigating in late February 2008, according to the article.
Workman is now 47 years old, and public records indicate he is living in Olmstead Falls in Cuyahoga County.
Unnamed Baptist ministers from Ohio
The SBC list also includes two unnamed pastors under the state of Ohio.
The entry for one is dated 2008 for a man raping a young girl in the 1980s in Fremont or Oak Harbor. The list does not include a church but indicates that the man pleaded not guilty to 48 counts of rape. No other information was provided.
The other pastor, from a church that is not named, has an entry date in the list of 2017. The list states only that the pastor was sentenced to 60 days in jail and one year of probation for loitering to engage in solicitation.
Other Baptist pastors with an Ohio connection:
The pastors below were on the SBC list with some Ohio connection, though the list did not have Ohio as their main location.
Jason Roy Bolton
Church: Potomac Crest Baptist Church in Woodbridge, Virginia
Accusation: Bolton was arrested on charges of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl in his church, according to the SBC, and pleaded guilty to taking indecent liberties with a minor in 2011.
Outcome: The former youth pastor was sentenced to three years in jail, according to the SBC, which were suspended; he served two years of supervised probation.
More: A close friendship between Bolton and the girl is alleged to have begun in September 2007 and that it became romantic in early 2010, according to Washington Post blog post from July 2010. Bolton was married with three children and started working as a youth pastor at Potomac Crest in 2007, according to the article. He resigned in May 2010.
Bolton is currently 44 years old and registered as a Tier I sex offender in Ohio. His registration lists multiple addresses, including a primary one in West Chester in Butler County, north of Cincinnati.
Unnamed Baptist pastor
There is another unnamed pastor, whose name was redacted, mentioned in the list with a date of entry in the list of 2015. He was not listed under any state, but it indicated he was charged with a second-degree felony sexual offense. He was picked up at his home in Ohio, the list says. It does not mention whether he was convicted, but states he was a former youth pastor and redacted the name of the church where he served.