A Baptist minister and father-of-three from South Carolina has been accused of repeatedly raping and twice impregnating a young girl who was forced to abort the unwanted pregnancies.
Pastor Phillip Jerard Buckson, 32, was arrested Wednesday at the Cleveland Chapel Baptist Church, where he has worked since 2014.
According to the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, Buckson has been charged with four counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor and has admitted to the allegations.
Investigators say tips provided in January through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children led authorities to the victim last week; she told investigators the abuse started in 2015 when she was 13 years old.
The teenager told law enforcement officials that she and Buckson had multiple sexual encounters at his home in Cherokee County on October 9, 2015.
The girl claimed that she and the preacher also had sex multiple times in Spartanburg County when she was 14 years old and attending ninth grade.
Two of the sexual encounters resulted in pregnancies, both of each ended in abortions.
On Wednesday, warrants were issued for Buckson’s arrest and he was taken into custody at his church.
The 32-year-old was then transported to the sheriff’s office in Spartanburg, where he reportedly made a full confession to the alleged crimes.
In January 2018, the South Carolina House of Representatives adopted a resolution ‘to honor and applaud’ Buckson for 12 years ‘of dedicated service to spreading the Lord’s Word and touching the lives of those around him.’
According to the bill, Buckson, a Gaffney native, has a degree in psychology from Spartanburg Methodist College, where he was a star basketball player and earned national recognition.
The clergyman has a son and two daughters. As of last year, he was engaged to be married.
According to the website of the Cleveland Chapel Baptist Church, Buckson has been senior pastor there since 2014. He also serves as one of the coordinators for the Cherokee County School Curriculum Counsel.
He previously preached in Georgia, Chicago, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.
His current congregation were horrified by the allegations, describing Buckson as a ‘good pastor.’
SOURCE: The Associated Press; Daily Mail, Snejana Farberov