Pastor pleads not guilty in sex abuse cases at Ozarks church

KCTV 5 News/August 30, 2006

Neosho, Mo. -- A pastor accused of repeatedly molesting a young girl from his church pleaded not guilty Wednesday in one of five cases against leaders of two affiliated church communities in rural southwest Missouri.

George Otis Johnston, 63, is charged in Newton County with eight counts of statutory sodomy. He entered the plea during a brief arraignment.

Johnston appeared in a brown suit and white shirt and did not talk to reporters as he left the hearing to go to his attorney's office across the street on the Neosho square.

Circuit Judge Gregory Stremel scheduled a preliminary hearing for Sept. 18.

Johnston is the pastor of Grandview Valley Baptist Church North. He and four elders of the affiliated live-in church community in neighboring McDonald County have been charged with multiple counts of repeatedly sexually abusing young girls from their churches as far back as the late 1970s.

The Rev. Raymond Lambert, 51; his wife Patty Lambert, 49; and her brothers Paul Epling, 53, and Tom Epling, 51, have also entered pleas of not guilty.

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