Former Missouri City pastor sentenced to 10 years for aggravated sexual assault of a child

Houston Chronicle [Houston TX]

September 29, 2022

By Jonathan Limehouse

A 62-year-old man who served as pastor of a Baptist church in Missouri City will spend a decade in prison after pleading guilty to the charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

William Benjamin Woodward pleaded guilty June 14, but he elected to have his punishment assessed by U.S. District Judge J. Christian Becerra. The first-degree felony is punishable by five to 99 years, or life, in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. 

Woodward was executive pastor at Heritage Baptist Church from 2009 until his arrest in April 2021. The church was rebranded and the name was changed to Horizon Baptist Church a few weeks after Woodward’s arrest.

By pleading guilty to the crime and waiving his right to a jury trial, Woodward became eligible to ask the court for deferred adjudication, a form of probation. During the hearing June 20, his attorney argued that his client was a good candidate for probation because of him being a church leader, not having a prior criminal history and the fact he began sex offender therapy after the child he abused outed him publicly. 

The Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office, represented by prosecutor Jessica Ramos, didn’t believe probation would be a sufficient punishment due to the age of the female victim being under 14 and because Woodward committed the crime on a child whose parents entrusted him to care for.

“During the punishment hearing, the father of the victim provided compelling testimony about how Mr. Woodward’s actions have detrimentally impacted the child, their family, and their church community,” Ramos said in a news release.