A 74-year old pastor in Medford, New Jersey, was arrested earlier this week for sexually assaulting four minors between 1999 and 2015.
According to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, Harry L. Thomas has been charged with aggravated sexual assault, three counts of sexual assault, and four counts of endangering the welfare of children.
As NJ.com reports, Thomas is the pastor of Come Alive Church and the founder of Creation Festival, a large, two-day Christian music festival in Pennsylvania.
A spokesperson for Come Alive Church told the Cherry Hill Courier Post that the crimes are “unrelated” to the pastor’s roles with the church or the festival.
The Creation Festivals organization posted a statement on Friday revealing that the pastor has been “indefinitely suspended” from his roles with both the church and the festival until a full investigation has been completed.
A spokesperson for the Burlington County Prosecutor’s office told NJ 101.5 that a parent had notified police about an assault, which triggered the investigation.
Friends of the pastor’s family are shocked by the allegations. Dino Originos, owner of a local diner, told ABC 7 that he had trusted the pastor with his own children for nearly three decades:
“I’ve seen him with children, with my children, and there is no way. I can’t believe it. He doesn’t seem to fit that profile. He is such a nice man and a Godly man and he has grandkids himself.”
The victims have not been identified at this time. Thomas was reportedly too ill to go to jail. He is currently under guard while seeking treatment at a medical facility.
Thomas is expected to make his first appearance in Superior Court in the near future. The date of the first court appearance has not yet been scheduled.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), there isn’t a “foolproof” way to protect children from sexual abuse, but it helps when parents stay involved, talk about abuse cases that are in the media, and keep watch for warning signs of sexual abuse.
RAINN shared that some physical warning signs of abuse include bleeding, bruising, difficulty walking, yeast infections, or other signs of changes in the genital area.
Behavioral changes can include depression, suicidal thoughts, trouble in school, change in hygiene, self-harm, and regressive behaviors.
If you have any questions about sexual abuse, you can call the RAINN National Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.
Anyone with information regarding the allegations against Thomas is encouraged to contact the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office Sexual Assault Unit at 609-265-5879.
Watch the full report via ABC 7 below.