Church abuse cases in Ozarks are likely to widen, authorities say

Associated Press/August 28, 2006

Allegations of years of child sex abuse at two reclusive Ozarks church communities are likely to widen as more victims come forward, with charges possible against people other than the five church leaders named so far in complaints, authorities said Monday.

The assistant prosecutor in a case in Newton County and the sheriff's deputy leading the investigation of a related case in McDonald County, both in southwest Missouri, said more possible victims are being interviewed and are naming other alleged perpetrators.

Prosecutors have filed complaints alleging felony child sex abuse against a pastor, his wife and two deacons of a church compound in rural McDonald County and the pastor of an affiliated church in the small town of Granby, about 75 miles southwest of Springfield.

In the Granby case, Newton County prosecutors have so far filed eight counts of felony statutory sodomy against George Otis Johnston, 63, the pastor of Grandview Valley Baptist Church North, a group of about 35-45 people living on a leased 10-acre lot.

That church is believed by investigators to be an offshoot of an older live-in community called Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, a 100-acre farm about 40 miles south of Granby in eastern McDonald County that dates back to the 1970s and once housed as many as 100 people.

McDonald County Sheriff's Deputy Mike Le Seuer said he expected additional charges against more adults at the Grand Valley church.

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