AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - A longtime associate pastor at Believers Church in Auburn has been arrested on child sex abuse charges.
His arrest in May got him kicked out of the church where he had been for 30 years. Lee County Sheriff's detectives say the two adult victims came forward in April to report they were abused in the early 1990's.
Every Sunday, for nearly 30 years at Believers Church on Moore's Mill Road, 53-year-old John Sluder, an associate pastor, would play guitar during services.
"People have shed tears because of what he appeared to be, a gentle old man. So yes, we were very shocked," said attorney Ben Hand.
Hand represents Believers Church where his father is the pastor. Hand says the church was stunned, then angry, when Sluder was arrested by Lee County, after two adult victims revealed Sluder had molested them on several occasions in the early 1990's when they were 8 and 9 years old.
"Every child, including my own daughter that has had contact with him has been questioned to make sure there are no other potential victims out there," said Hand.
Sheriff Jay Jones would not comment on if Sluder had confessed to the crime. He did say during the course of the investigation, evidence was obtained that supported the issuance of warrants charging Sluder with two counts of Sexual Abuse First Degree.
"We do have evidence that leads us to believe this type of crime did take place," said Sheriff Jones.
Hand said his church takes the allegations very seriously and decided to remove Sluder from Believers.
"He was told if he came on church property, he would be arrested from trespassing and was forbidden from every returning to Believers Church. His bond was lowered from $100,000 to $25,000 and that is a nominal bond, and we have recommended that nobody make that bond. He needs to be there," said Hand.
Sheriff Jones stated church leaders have been more than helpful, working with investigators to identify every possible victim.
"It's just disappointing to consider the aspect that someone in a position of trust, would abuse that trusts especially involving children victims," said Sheriff Jones.
Sheriff Jones said if you do know of any child who has had contact with John Sluder, you are encouraged to speak with them.
"The full extent of the law needs to be handed down. And we have to do everything we can to protect these kids ant they need to know they are safe and that society will come to their defense," said Hand.
Sluder has not made bond since his May arrest. The case will go to a grand jury soon.
The church says it is doing everything it can to help the victims while cooperating with investigators.