More Accusations Made against Neosho Pastor

Associated Press, carried in News-Leader
May 10, 2008

NEOSHO — Two more women have come forward with sexual abuse accusations against the pastor of a small southwest Missouri church who already is facing charges that he molested a 16-year-old girl five years ago.

One 21-year-old woman who lives on the West Coast said she reported sexual abuse by Randall "Danny" Russell, the pastor of ACT II Church on the edge of Neosho, in 2002 when she was 15.

Earlier this week a 24-year-old Joplin woman also came forward with allegations against Russell, who was arrested April 29 on charges that he sexually abused a female member of his church four or five years ago.

Russell, 49, was charged with statutory rape, sodomy and child abuse. Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland said he could find no report of the West Coast woman's previous complaint, but a retired sheriff's deputy remembers looking into her complaint with a state child-abuse investigator. The retired sheriff's investigator and state investigator recalled that the case was dropped because the girl had been reluctant to testify against Russell.

"Mike Barnett (the detective in charge of the current investigation) has contacted her, we've taken a report and we intend to present it to the prosecutor," Copeland said.

He said the most likely charge in that case would be child molestation because the woman does not allege any sexual intercourse occurred.

There wasn't a phone number listed for Russell in Neosho and he wasn't immediately available for comment Saturday.

The Joplin woman alleges that Russell started fondling and abusing her when she was 11 or 12 years old, Copeland said. She claims the abuse took place in church offices after Sunday services and on Tuesday nights, he said.

"She is willing to testify and cooperate," Copeland said. "So we will be forwarding that case to the prosecutor, as well."

He said no sexual intercourse is alleged in that case, though the alleged acts do constitute sodomy.

The woman whose case led to the rape and sodomy charges says she went to Russell for counseling when she was 16 in 2003. She said they had oral sex and intercourse on several occasions before her 17th birthday, and that the pastor took nude photos of her.

Sheriff's deputies allegedly found nude photos of the girl still in the church office when they executed a search warrant there on April 29.


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