By Jeanne LeFlore
A McAlester church elder, 76, was charged Tuesday for allegedly molesting three children more than 30 years ago, according to McAlester Police Det. Sgt. Chris Morris.
Ronald H. Lawrence,76, of McAlester was charged in Pittsburg County Court with 19 felony counts including forcible oral sodomy, lewd molestation, forcible oral sodomy and rape by instrumentation involving two preteen girls and one 5-year-old boy between 1977 to 1982.
The affidavit states one female was allegedly 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.
Included in court documents filed Tuesday are allegations that Lawrence confessed to the incidents to his members of his church and the police were never notified.
And at least one of the incidents allegedly occurred in a janitor’s closet at First National Bank of McAlester, according to court records.
Lawrence, who said he was an elder in the Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall in McAlester, was arrested by McAlester Police on Tuesday after three witnesses came forward this year alleging they were molested some 30 years ago, according to Morris.
According to a court affidavit, one of the alleged victims reported that Lawrence allegedly 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 late and in the janitors closet at First National Bank,” the affidavit alleges.
In a recorded interview between Lawrence and McAlester police detectives, Lawrence denied some allegations but he did admit to molesting one of the girls. according to allegations in the affidavit.
“They shouldn’t have (happened),” Lawrence said. “I’m sure (it) may have been on purpose, I touched her,” he said, according to allegations in the affidavit.
During the interview, Lawrence said he confessed to his church and he named four Jehovah Witness church elders who he said were aware of some of the incidents, allegations in the affidavit state.
Lawrence told police he confessed to his church about the allegations including an incident with fourth child, a boy who told his parents that he was “sexually assaulted” by Lawrence in the janitors closet at First National Bank, the affidavit alleges.
Lawrence said the boy made the allegations to “get him fired from the bank,” according to the affidavit.
Police said the fourth alleged victim was contacted by McAlester police but refused to speak with law enforcement about the case, court records state.
Lawrence also told police that “he admitted to his church that all of the allegations were true” so that he could be reinstated into the church after being “dis-fellowshipped,” the affidavit alleges.
He also told police that law enforcement was never informed of the allegations, to the best of his knowledge, according to the affidavit.
Lawrence is being held at Pittsburg County Jail in lieu of $200,000 bond.
If convicted of the charges against him, Lawrence faces up to life in prison.
No one answered several calls to the Jehovah Witness Church and Lawrence could not be reached for comment.
No future court date has been set at this time.
Contact Jeanne LeFlore at firstname.lastname@example.org.