Church member accused of abusing young Columbia girls - WSMV Channel 4

Church member accused of abusing young Columbia girls

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Ronald G. Clouse Ronald G. Clouse
COLUMBIA, TN (WSMV) -

A Maury County church is at the center of some serious allegations after three young girls came forward and told authorities a man in the church molested them.

Ronald Clouse, 58, is charged with three counts of aggravated sexual battery, and investigators said Clouse admitted to the crime.

The investigation continues, however, because there could be more victims.

"I believe the trust that you have in a church, where you feel safe, is why it feels so troubling," said Maury County Sheriff's Det. Anthony Bailey.

Bailey believes Lighthouse Church of Jesus Christ was the scene of a crime.

A grand jury indicted Clouse, a former member at the church, after he was accused of molesting a 6-year-old and two 8-year-olds in separate incidents in December 2012 and January 2013.

Two of the alleged assaults happened at church breakfast. Another allegedly happened in the parking lot of a nearby McDonald's, with Clouse and the girl in the backseat, as his daughter - herself a minor - sat behind the wheel.

"The pastor of the church contacted us and stated that there were some unusual behavior with Ron Clouse and some of the children at the church," Bailey said. "That he was showing them a lot of attention."

Clouse recently moved to the area from Indiana, and according to Bailey, the man could be related by marriage to the church's pastor.

Beyond that, investigators do not yet want to offer specifics, believing there could be more victims.

"He chose three, and you know there are several children that go to this church," Bailey said.

The church's pastor declined an interview for this story, but he passed along a written statement, saying, "We are very concerned with the safety of our congregation and especially our children. Therefore, we are fully cooperating with [the sheriff's department] in this investigation of these allegations."

The Tennessee Department of Children's Services continues to work with the sheriff's department by interviewing children as the investigation continues.

Clouse is currently lodged in the Maury County Jail on $75,000 bond.

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