Pastor charged with sex abuse

Star-Telegram/January 4, 2005
By Melody Mcdonald

Fort Worth -- The accusers just kept surfacing.

First the Rev. Larry Nuell Neathery was arrested in April on allegations that he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old male church member.

Then the district attorney's office found more accusers and charged him with sexually abusing two more boys, one of whom is now an adult.

Now Neathery is behind bars again -- this time accused of sexually abusing three young brothers.

Neathery, 55, who had been free on bail since his first arrest, turned himself in shortly after noon Monday. He remained in the Tarrant County Jail late Monday with bail set at $750,000.

All told, Neathery, who resigned as pastor of Westside Victory Baptist Church several weeks ago, is officially accused of sexual misconduct with six males.

"If there ever was an innocent person charged with this many offenses, it is him," defense attorney Don Carter said. "He told me when he was going into the jail, he said, 'Mr. Carter, I'm innocent. I have not done these things, but I'm turning myself in as the law requires me to.'

"In his words, he is going to depend on the Lord to take care of him."

Phone numbers to the church and Neathery's home were disconnected Monday.

The latest allegations, outlined in three arrest warrant affidavits, are perhaps the most shocking, accusing Neathery of, among other things, making the brothers have a masturbation contest.

According to the affidavits, the latest allegations surfaced Dec. 1 after one of the brothers told their mother that Neathery had sexually abused him.

The mother reported the allegations to police and, three days later, a Child Protective Services worker interviewed her three sons -- then ages 7, 11 and 12.

During the interviews, the 12-year-old said that, when he was 11, Neathery took him and his two brothers into a bedroom at Neathery's house.

"Larry told the boys that if they did not masturbate like he told them to, he would beat them until they were vegetables," the affidavit says.

That boy said that it happened to him only once and that he never spent the night at Neathery's house again.

The 11-year-old brother reported in his affidavit that Neathery had been sexually abusing him since he was about 5 years old.

He said that the first time was at Neathery's church office at 6154 Meandering Road. The boy said in his affidavit that he was in a chair when Neathery pulled the boy's pants and underwear down and they masturbated.

The affidavit describes several other acts of sexual abuse.

"The victim said that anytime he wouldn't do what Larry told him to do, Larry would threaten to beat the victim until he was a vegetable," the affidavit states.

The youngest brother also reported that Neathery had been sexually abusing him since he was about 5 years old.

His affidavit says that he was forced to perform sexual acts on Neathery in his church office and in the church auditorium.

Like his brothers, the boy said that Neathery told him not to tell or he would "beat us to vegetables."

The fact that a former preacher is accused of sexually abusing six boys -- many inside the church -- is disconcerting even to a veteran detective assigned to the Police Department's Crimes Against Children Unit.

"It is always concerning when dealing with a pattern of abuse that has gone on as long as this, considering the number of potential victims he has had contact with," said Detective D.R. Hutchins, who investigated four of the six cases.

The first allegations against Neathery surfaced in April when a 13-year-old church member told his mother that Neathery had sexually abused him at least four times since late 2003 or early 2004.

The boy told a CPS worker that three of the assaults took place inside the pastor's church office and a fourth took place in March while the boy was spending the night with the pastor's grandson.

Neathery was arrested and released from jail on $50,000 bail.

Neathery was indicted in that case in June, and Dennis Timmons, an investigator with the district attorney's office, continued investigating.

Timmons' efforts turned up more accusers, including two who were within the statute of limitations for prosecution, said prosecutor Rebecca McIntire.

One of those accusers is now an adult who said Neathery sexually assaulted him as a youth and tried to sexually assault him as an adult, McIntire said.

The other is a juvenile who said Neathery befriended him and then exposed himself to him, McIntire said.

Neathery was charged in those allegations.

McIntire said all of the cases will be presented to a grand jury "as soon as possible."

"We'll be aggressively prosecuting these cases," she said.

"With this number of victims, it is obviously a case that will be getting a lot of attention."

Until he gets his day in court, Neathery, who Carter said cannot post the $750,000 bail, will probably remain behind bars.

"He has resigned himself to sit it out and defend himself," Carter said.

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