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The former youth minister accused of raping, sodomizing and sexually abusing at least two children pleaded guilty to reduced charges Tuesday morning and received a sentence of five years on probation.
Gordon Lunceford, 46, a youth minister at First Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg in 1992, was charged last summer with six counts of third-degree rape, five counts of third-degree sodomy and one count of second-degree sexual abuse.
Lunceford now lives in Madison County.
According to court documents, one victim was under the age of 16 at the time and another was under 14.
Tuesday morning in Anderson County Circuit Court, Judge Charles Hickman agreed to an deal reached between Lunceford’s attorney and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office that allowed Lunceford to avoid jail time.
As part of the agreement, Lunceford pleaded to second-degree unlawful transaction with a minor and sexual misconduct. Neither of those pleas will force Lunceford to register as a convicted sex offender, Hickman said in court.
An unidentified woman spoke as a victim before Lunceford was sentenced, saying that she understands that, at the time of the incident, Lunceford was dealing with issues in his life.
“But the bottom line is I was a minor, and what you did was wrong,” the woman said.
She said she was shy at the time, which prevented her from telling anyone what happened. She added that she has endured years of therapy since that time, and that she has suffered from depression and “suicidal thoughts.”
She then handed Hickman a copy of a statement she had prepared, prompting Hickman to complete the rest of the schedule hearings and resume Lunceford’s hearing after about an hour.
During the break, Lunceford remained in the courtroom, seated alone on one of the front benches and intermittently looking down and sometimes appearing to pray with his hands clasped in front of his face.
When the hearing reconvened, Hickman asked the victim to confirm that she had participated in the agreement between Lunceford’s attorney and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office.
She said she did.
Terms of that agreement were not immediately available.
At the beginning of the hearing, Lunceford’s attorney said that Lunceford had already “made restitution” and will “pay the rest.”
He added that he and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office spent two days hammering out the agreement, and that Lunceford apologized to the victim.
The attorney said Lunceford had not worked with children since the time of the incident in Lawrenceburg, and had no plans to work with children in the future.
“He was going through some difficult times,” the attorney said. “He has sacrificed a lot, including the ministry he was called to do.”
E-mail Ben Carlson at firstname.lastname@example.org.