Magnolia pastor indicted on sexual assault charges

By Jay R. Jordan
December 26, 2016

Ronald Mitchell

Magnolia pastor Ronald Mitchell was indicted Thursday on four felony child sexual assault charges.

Mitchell, 57, pastors Body of Christ Church near Magnolia. He was arrested Nov. 1 after SWAT team member with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office raided the church and allegedly found evidence of the sexual assault.

The pastor is facing four second-degree felony counts of sexual assault of a child – one for every time prosecutors say Mitchell had sex with a 16-year-old congregation member over a four-month period from 2015 into 2016. He is facing up to 80 years in prison for those charges, but Montgomery County Sheriff's Office detectives believe there could be more victims.

Court documents show Mitchell had the girl staying with him at his church in the 40200 block of Garwood Court near Magnolia, telling the girl's mother that she needed to be "watched" and have "more supervision."

The first instance of the alleged sexual assault happened the weekend before Thanksgiving in 2015, the girl told investigators. About two weeks after that, Mitchell allegedly asked the girl if she was ready for more sexual encounters.

She initially said no but felt threatened by Mitchell, court records show, and eventually succumbed. The sexual assaults continued for months, court records show, including during trips to Las Vegas, San Antonio and Galveston.

Mitchell's wife would bring the girl to the Lone Star Clinic in Conroe to receive birth control shots. It is unclear if she could be charged with a crime for doing so. No charges have been filed with either the Montgomery County District Clerk or Montgomery County Clerk's office as of press time.

The girl told a fellow church member about the abuse. The church member eventually contacted Magnolia police to help retrieve the girl from the church in September, but she did not learn of the abuse until the following month.

The MCSO SWAT raided the compound Nov. 1 and found evidence of the assault, MCSO stated in a press release. They also found a large cache of weapons and ammunition, which Mitchell kept in preparation for the "dark times" and rapture, according to court records.

But Mitchell's defense attorney is asking a judge turn some of that evidence back over to the church, claiming a portion of the evidence has nothing to do with Mitchell's charges.

"Many of those items had no relation to the commission of the alleged offense of sexual assault of a child, and/or were not the property of (Mitchell)," defense attorney Joseph Labella stated in a motion, eventually adding the large cache of guns was strictly for the "protection and defense of his parishioners." He's hoping the guns and ammunition will be returned to the church soon.

A judge has yet to rule on that motion. But a judge did sign a gag order on the case, meaning that neither Labella nor the district attorney's office can comment or publicize the case in any way.

In a previous Courier article, Assistant District Attorney Tyler Dunman said the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office is handling this case like every other child sexual assault case.

"There's some complexity to that because of the nature of the church environment and his role as the pastor," Dunman said. "But at the end of the day, we're concerned for the children."

Mitchell has been in the Montgomery County Jail since his November arrest in lieu of $400,000 worth of bonds. He will be in Judge Kathleen Hamilton's 359th state District Court again Feb. 7 for an information hearing.

Anyone with information on this case is encouraged to contact the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office at 936-760-5876 or Multi-County Crime Stoppers at 800-392-STOP (7867).



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