Former Baptist camp director charged with abuse found dead

Associated Baptist Press/May 25, 2010

Hertford, North Carolina - A former director of a North Carolina Baptist camp who was awaiting trial on six child-sex charges was found dead of an apparent suicide May 24.

Stephen Carter

A newspaper in Hertford, N.C., quoted the sheriff of Perquimans County as confirming that Stephen Carter, former director of Cale Retreat and Conference Center in Hertford from 2002 until his arrest last July, was found dead in a vehicle in Virginia Beach, Va., apparently from carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Carter was found in his parked truck on land he owns in Virginia. Margie Hobbs, public information officer with the Virginia Beach Police Department, said the wooded property on which Carter was found in the 4800 block of Blackwater Road is listed in his name.

Carter, 51, was out of jail on $80,000 bond on two counts each of engaging in sexual activities with a child, felony first-degree sex offense of a child and felony indecent liberties with a child. If convicted of the most serious offense he could have faced life in prison.

After his arrest Carter was placed on administrative leave by the camp, operated by Chowan Baptist Association in northeastern North Carolina. As a condition of his arrest he was banned from the property of the camp and from having any contact with anyone under 18 except for his son. The association hired an interim director in January to run this summer's camping season.

Police accused Carter of sex offenses involving three separate minors. Carter told local media he was innocent. Survivors include Carter's wife of 26 years, Grayce, and two children. Carter reportedly had attended the high school graduation ceremony for his son the day before he took his life.

Before taking over as director of the camp, Carter served as a Southern Baptist missionary in Belize from 1997 to 2001 through short-term appointment with the International Mission Board. At the time of his arrest an IMB spokesperson said the agency, which has a zero-tolerance policy regarding child sexual abuse, had no knowledge of any allegation of abuse by Carter made prior to 2009.

"A suicide is always a tragedy, and my heart goes out to Rev. Carter’s family," said Christa Brown, Baptist outreach director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "I also pray for the children and families who made the allegations."

Brown, who has called for the Southern Baptist Convention to develop a system for reporting and handling allegations of clergy sexual abuse, said the convention "should conduct a professional assessment of the allegations and should pro-actively reach out to provide assistance to any who may have been wounded, whether here in the United States or in Belize, where Carter previously worked for the International Mission Board."

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