McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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December 28, 2013

Attorney in sex assault case says case it too old

McALESTER — An attorney has filed a motion to dismiss charges against a McAlester church elder accused of molesting three children more than 30 years ago.

On Monday, attorney Warren Gotcher filed a motion to dismiss the charges against Ronald H. Lawrence, 76, citing a statute of limitations expiration.

The charges allege attacks occurred between 1977 and 1982. Monday’s motion states the statute of limitations in the case expired in 1987 or earlier.

In November, Lawrence, an elder in the McAlester Jehovah Witness Church, was charged in Pittsburg County District Court with 19 felony counts, including 11 of lewd molestation, seven of forcible sodomy and one count of rape by instrumentation. The alleged victims in the cases were two preteen girls and one 5-year-old boy at the time.

Lawrence was arrested by McAlester police after three people alleged this year they had been molested some 30 years ago, according to McAlester police officer Chris Morris.

An affidavit filed in the case alleges one female was molested from the time she was 8 until she was 13 years old.

A second female alleged she was molested by Lawrence between the ages of 10 and 13, and a male alleged he was molested at the age of 5.

According to a court affidavit, one of the alleged victims reported Lawrence molested her in a janitor’s closet at the First National Bank in McAlester where Lawrence was employed.

“The incidents occurred at his home, in the swimming pool at his home, at the lake and in the janitors closet at First National Bank,” the affidavit alleges.

On Friday, District 18 District Attorney Farley Ward said his office has researched the statute of limitations.

“Before we filed the charges we researched this and we found that we are within the statute of limitations,” he told the News-Capital.

A hearing on the motion is set for Jan. 30 at 2:30 p.m.

Lawrence was released from jail Nov. 24 after posting a $50,000 bond. As a condition of his bond, he is not to have contact with the alleged victims in the case.

If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

No one answered several calls to the Jehovah Witness Church and Lawrence could not be reached for comment.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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