Church leaders’ suspicions led to arrest

| May 24, 2010

Church leaders at Lighthouse Pentecostal Church were more vigilant after they became suspicious that a church member who was a registered sex offender was videotaping under the skirts of women and girls at their church.

Jackson police confirmed their suspicions and arrested the man on Wednesday.

"We do not tolerate this in our church and in our community," Pastor Donald Lance said on Thursday, in an interview at the church on Old Humboldt Road. "A church is a public place and we can't stop it from happening, but we can take proper steps to keep it from happening again."

Richard Glenn Rushton, 50, is charged with unlawful photographing in violation of privacy and observation without consent after police say he created illicit videotapes over a period of two years, according to a news release from the Jackson Police Department. He will be arraigned in Jackson City Court at 8 a.m. this morning.

Rushton was released from a Florida prison in 2002 after serving almost six years for two sexual offenses that occurred in 1995 and 1996, according to the Florida Department of Corrections website. The charges included lewd and lascivious behavior involving a child under 16 and possession of photographs or other material showing sexual conduct by a child.

Jackson police Lt. Tyreece Miller said Rushton first registered as a sexual offender in Jackson in 2003 and that he has checked in once a year, as he is required to do. He did not have a prior arrest record in Jackson, Miller said.

Members at the church were aware Rushton was a convicted sex offender and watched him closely, including banning him from entering any children's classrooms or being alone with children, Lance said.

"I told him if he did anything inappropriate we would turn him in and we lived up to our word," he said.

Lance, whose church was destroyed by the 2008 tornado and only recently rebuilt, said his congregation first became suspicious of Rushton about five or six weeks ago. Several members expressed concerns about Rushton's actions, so Lance asked their police-trained security team to keep an eye on Rushton.

Then this Sunday, several members of the security team said they were sure they saw Rushton videotaping by holding his camcorder upside-down on a tripod, with the lens turned up.

Rushton would engage in conversation with women and girls and position the camera to film under their skirts and dresses, Lance said. Rushton brought the camcorder to church to film adult classes, and members assumed it was turned off when he walked around with it.

Police searched Rushton's home Tuesday and found "numerous video images" that he had recorded sporadically since 2007.

Miller declined to say how many women were involved, but said it was "a large number" and police were continuing their investigation to contact all the victims.

"We've had great cooperation from the church in helping us identify victims," Miller said.

Lance described the experience for his congregation as "gut-wrenching" and "embarrassing.

"It is hard to describe the emotions … People feel betrayed," he said. "We just came out of a literal storm and are thrown into another storm that is almost worse. But thank God we were able to stop this before someone was physically hurt."

It would have been easier for the Lighthouse congregation to simply ask Rushton leave after they became suspicious of his actions, Lance said, but they did not think that was the right thing to do. Instead they chose to watch him until they had enough evidence to turn him in so that he could not go to another church and do the same thing.

"There is a line in any church when mercy stops … we have to protect our people and our children," Lance said. "I'm sorry we had to be the example of what can happen, but if this is what it takes to help others not get hurt, so be it."–suspicions-led-to-arrest

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Category: Church Security

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