• 50°

Judge: New Hope Baptist pastor not guilty of sexual battery

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A judge determined a local pastor was not guilty of sexual battery following a three-day trial. Both the accuser and the pastor testified.

District Court Judge Kevin Eddinger said after hearing testimony and the evidence presented that Kenneth Darrell Worley, senior pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, was not guilty.

The accuser, Magen Stewart-Mills, told the court she’d briefly spoken with Worley at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. The two struck up a conversation and then he agreed to meet with her at her home to discuss faith.

She testified that while at her home Worley licked her ear and was sexually aroused while they sat on her couch.

She said the pastor asked if he could give her a hug and at that time licked her ear, then groped her breast and butt.

Worley, in his testimony denied the accusations, saying it never happened.

Worley’s attorney, James Davis, asked Stewart-Mills if she recalled an odor or smell coming from Worley. After a back and forth, Stewart-Mills said Worley wore cologne.

Worley told the court he never wore cologne and didn’t even have scented soap, shampoo or body wash. Davis called character witnesses to the stand, who one by one described never knowing the pastor to wear cologne.

One of the witnesses, Rowan County Sheriff’s Deputy Donnie Wagoner, has been a youth teacher at the church and said he found Worley to be very professional. Other witnesses said Worley was not a touchy kind of person and was always known to shake hands.

Jill Stewart, mother of the accuser, said her daughter told her she met someone at the doctor’s office. Stewart said at the time, her daughter was wrestling with “some faith issues.”

She said her daughter called her hysterical and was crying. Stewart said she could barely understand what her daughter was saying because she was so upset.

Stewart was concerned about her daughter because of the young woman’s issues in the past with depression. The mother did not go to her daughter’s house after the call when she learned a friend was on her way to the home.

Stewart-Mills admitted to waiting hours before reporting the incident. Worley visited the woman at her home around 10 a.m. and she contacted authorities around 3 p.m. at the insistence of that friend.

The friend, Haven Harrison, said Stewart-Mills told her the pastor pressed his body weight against her and “hugged her tight.”

She went on to say Stewart-Mills had to slide out from underneath the pastor.

Stewart-Mills said she was in shock at the time and wasn’t sure whether she wanted to report the incident to authorities.

When asked by Davis, Worley’s attorney, why she didn’t contact any neighbors, Stewart-Mills said they were all dead. She lives near Chestnut Hills Cemetery and has no immediate neighbors.

Later, she testified that she had an auto-immune disease that prevented her from walking.

A Salisbury Police investigator said on the stand she was assigned the case April 28. The initial report was made Feb. 2.

The detective said the woman was consistent with what she told police in February and in a follow up interview.

Davis said the case came down to believability. He asked if his client was “worthy of belief.”

During each day of trial, there were supporters in attendance for both Stewart-Mills and Worley.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

 

Comments

Crime

Man charged after thieves rob would-be gun buyers of wallets, shoes

Crime

Blotter: Four added to sheriff’s most wanted list

High School

High school football: Some anxious moments, but Hornets win state title

Local

Photos: Salisbury High Hornets win big in 2AA championship game

Local

County manager outlines projections for the upcoming fiscal year budget, suggests uses for stimulus money

Business

Miami-based Browns Athletic Apparel opens second screen printing location in Salisbury

News

At funeral, fallen Watauga deputies remembered as ‘heroes’

Coronavirus

COVID-19 cluster identified at Granite Quarry Elementary

Coronavirus

More than half of North Carolinians have now taken at least one vaccine shot

Local

City hopes to cover expenses in 2021-22 budget with surplus revenue generated this year

Local

Fallen tree proves to be a blessing for local nonprofit Happy Roots

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Health department drops quarantine time from 14 to 10 days

Crime

Blotter: More than $100,000 in property reported stolen from Old Beatty Ford Road site

Local

City fights invasive beetles by injecting trees with insecticide

Local

City names downtown recipients for federal Parks Service grant

China Grove

China Grove Town Council weighs 2021-22 budget priorities, supports buying body cameras

Education

Educators reflect on Teacher Appreciation Week

Education

Livingstone College wins $30,000 Home Depot grant

Education

Shoutouts

News

Shield-A-Badge With Prayer program enters 26th year, accepting volunteers to pair with officers

Education

COVID-19 infection, quarantine numbers in Rowan-Salisbury Schools reach new highs

High School

High school football: Offensive line came together for Hornets, who play for state title tonight

Local

Pro baseball: White makes pro debut and says, ‘It felt amazing to be out there’