Odenton minister denies molesting boy

But judge allows earlier confession as evidence

The Capital Annapolis, Md/August 11, 2006
By Eric Hartley

A minister from Odenton testified yesterday that he confessed to molesting a 10-year-old boy even though he's innocent because he believed an apology would end his "nightmare."

The Rev. Enoch J. Hill, 28, said a county police detective told him all the boy and his mother wanted was an apology. He said he believed that meant he wouldn't be arrested.

"He's basically saying, 'I know this is what you did, and all you need to do is write an apology letter and this will be over,' " he said of the April 17 interrogation, during which he admitted repeatedly fondling the boy.

Arguing that the officer's conduct was misleading, the Rev. Hill's lawyer asked the judge to bar the confession from evidence at the upcoming trial.

But Detective Patrick McLaughlin said he never promised the Rev. Hill he wouldn't be criminally charged.

The detective said he mentioned that the boy, now 12, only wanted an apology "because I wanted to minimize what he had done so it would be easier for him to confess. ... If he wanted to believe that he could engage in sexual abuse of a child and there would be no repercussions beyond an apology, then he could believe that."

After the hearing in Circuit Court in Annapolis, Judge William C. Mulford II rejected the defense lawyer's request and allowed the confession into the trial, which is set for October.

"I think the detective was very careful in his questions," Judge Mulford said, adding later, "I don't think the officer implied that the state or the police would not prosecute."

The Rev. Hill, an associate pastor at the House of God Church in Essex, is charged with six counts, including sexual abuse of a minor, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. He's free on bail.

Police said he molested the victim, a family friend from Baltimore, for about six months beginning in the summer of 2004. The abuse occurred at the Rev. Hill's apartment on Peaceful Way in Odenton, police said.

The boy reported it to his mother in April. Family members contacted police, who interviewed the boy April 4.

In an April 14 phone call with the Rev. Hill, which was secretly recorded by police, the boy tried to get him to apologize. Detective McLaughlin testified that the Rev. Hill never directly apologized, but also never denied abusing the boy.

When the boy asked, "So you apologize that you touched me in the wrong place?" the Rev. Hill replied, "I just want to put this behind us," the detective said.

Detective McLaughlin then called the Rev. Hill, who agreed to come in and answer questions at the Criminal Investigation Division in Crownsville.

"I know I did not commit this act," the Rev. Hill said yesterday. "I've never been in trouble before, but when (the detective) interviewed me, it seemed like he'd already decided I did this."

He said Detective McLaughlin suggested there wouldn't be a trial, saying of the boy and his family, "They don't want you to be in trouble."

But Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen Rogers argued, and Judge Mulford agreed, that an officer has to promise someone directly that he won't be charged for a confession to be improperly "induced."

The Rev. Hill testified that the boy's mother had been "spreading lies" about him and the boy himself threatened to say he'd been molested.

"I'm a minister, and all I wanted was to end this," the Rev. Hill said. He added later, "He said, 'If you do not say this, if you do not apologize, I will tell my mother.' And I know what that could mean for me as a minister in the church."

According to the House of God Church's Web site, its full name is the House of God Which Is the Church of the Living God the Pillar and Ground of the Truth Without Controversy Inc. The Rev. Hill was still listed as the site's webmaster.

The House of God has churches in 25 states and four other countries.

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