March 05, 2005

Ex-church members keep open mind in pastor's case

The Dallas Morning News

08:46 PM CST on Friday, March 4, 2005

By JEFF MOSIER / The Dallas Morning News

FORT WORTH Former members of Westside Victory Baptist Church describe their ex-pastor as a happy and God-fearing man who delivered doughnuts to neighbors and presided over a close-knit congregation of a few dozen.

Since last spring, however, the virtuous and cheerful image of Larry Neathery has been called into question. In April, he was arrested and then indicted on a charge of indecency with a child. Five more boys he's accused of molesting and eight more charges were added to the case in late December.

Now he's facing nine charges of molesting young boys over a 14-year period and remains in the Tarrant County Jail in lieu of $950,000 bail. The indictments range from indecent exposure to aggravated sexual assault of a child.

"I'm pretty certain that he's not guilty, but at the same time, everyone has faults," said former church member Jim Hughes. "We don't know what people do in their secret lives."

Mr. Neathery's attorney, Tiffany Lewis, could not be reached for comment last week, but she has previously said her client is innocent. The families of those Mr. Neathery is accused of molesting could not be found for comment.

The current pastor of Westside Victory Baptist Church, where Mr. Neathery served for more than a dozen years, was guarded about his assessment of the charges.

"We're not his judge," said Ron Bridges, who served as pastor alongside Mr. Neathery for several years. "God is his judge."

Posted by kshaw at March 5, 2005 03:17 AM