Former Riverside pastor pleads to sex crimes against female parishoners

Dayton Daily News/June 5, 2008

Dayton - A Riverside pastor accused multiple sex crimes against at least eight female members of his congregation pleaded guilty Thursday to 15 felonies, including two counts of rape of a child under the age of 13.

Dennis Bowling, 47, who had been pastor of Kingdom Harvest Church, 2360 Valley Pike, was to go to trial Monday. Under the plea agreement reached between Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutors Erin Claypoole and Elizabeth Scott and defense attorney Dennis Lieberman, Bowling will be sentenced to between 10 and 20 years in prison without any chance for early release.

The other 13 charges were third-degree felonies, punishable by up to five years in prison. They include:

  • Eight counts of sexual battery
  • Three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor
  • Two counts of gross sexual imposition, one of them of a minor under 13

The charges cover a 10-year period, between 1996 and 2006, and involve eight victims, all who were between the ages of 12 and 17 at the time the offenses occurred, according to Montgomery County prosecutors. Langer said the counts Bowling pleaded to also covered all eight victims.

Two of those victims were present in court, along with their supporters, but they declined to comment.

Investigators did interview other victims, but did not have enough evidence to charge Bowling in those cases, prosecutors said.

Bowling has been in Montgomery County Jail since his Nov. 21, 2006 arrest.

Bowling was arrested after a group of women from the congregation told police he had sexually assaulted several female members of the church.

A Stebbins High School dropout, Bowling served at the nondenominational church and the adjoining Christian Training Center as pastor, youth minister and community leader for 19 years. In May 2006, Bowling received an "Unsung Heroes Award for Appalachians" from Sinclair Community College.

A group of church women tipped off police about Bowling's alleged crimes on Nov. 20, 2006 the night of Bowling's annual Thanksgiving dinner for the neighboring community. Bowling reportedly did not attend the dinner.

The following day, Miami County sheriff's deputies arrested Bowling from a family member's Miami County home and delivered the preacher to Riverside police. Nine days later, his wife filed for divorce. The couple had been married 21 years and had five children.

"The defendant will serve that entire sentence," said Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Dennis Langer, who will sentence Bowling on July 2.

On Thursday, June 5, Langer ordered a pre-sentencing investigation, including a psychological evaluation requested by Lieberman.

Bowling will also be designated a Tier 3 sex offender, requiring both community notification when he moves to a new residence, plus registration with the sheriff's office every 90 days for the rest of his life, Langer said.

Bowling had been indicted on 90 felony charges. All but 15 were dropped under the agreement. Bowling pleaded to the two rape counts, both first-degree felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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