GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — The Gaston County Police Department has arrested a local pastor accused of multiple sex-related offenses.
According to police, 61-year-old Jerry Lewis Friday was arrested at his home on North Myrtle School Road, Gastonia on multiple sex-related offenses.
Police report Friday is the pastor at New Providence Baptist Church in Mount Holly.
Friday is accused of several sex crimes involving underage girls at the church. Police say some of the crimes happened at the Mount Holly church. Friday made first court appearance by video screen on Thursday afternoon.
He is charged with one count of felony statutory sex offense, four counts of felony indecent liberties with a child, one count of felony disseminating obscene material to a minor, and two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery.
The prosecutor reportedly asked the judge to set a high bond in the case. The judge set Friday’s bond at $1 million. The court hearing revealed more about the disturbing allegations, involving three different girls.
Multiple victims were identified during the investigation -- all were juveniles at the time of the offense, police say.
Tim Morton lives just steps away from New Providence Baptist Church. Morton says his grandson played outside at the church until he learned about the allegations against the pastor.
“Right now, I won't let my grandson go across that road,” Morton said. “Times are getting too bad.”
Police say the alleged crimes spanned a three year period from July 2015 to September 2018.
“Some of the allegations involve acts that occurred at the church, at the victim's homes, and the defendant’s home,” the prosecutor said in court.
In court on Thursday, prosecutors said the victims ranged in age from 13 to 17 during the crimes.
“These three victims are all members of the congregation, they are all young women ranging in age from about 16 to 19 now,” the prosecutor said.
Police say the investigation began three weeks ago, when one of the three victims came forward and filed a police report. Before setting bond, the judge asked Friday if he had any comments.
“Nothing at this time,” Friday responded.
This is an ongoing investigation, and officials are looking into whether there are other victims.
Anyone with information regarding this investigation, please contact Det. Rheinson at 704-866-3320, or Crimestoppers at 704-861-8000