A 39-year-old LaFayette man, who was a former youth minister in Trion, has been arrested for allegedly fondling a 15-year-old girl in 2009.
According to LaFayette Police Department reports:
Ronald Lee Howard Jr. of 404 Hill Ave., Apt. A, was arrested at his residence shortly after 3 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13, and charged with child molestation. He was released the next day on $5,000 bond.
The Walker County Sheriff’s Office coordinated the investigation with the LaFayette Police Department, since the crime, which occurred in 2009, was in the county. LaFayette police detective Stacy Meeks and sheriff’s detective Sgt. Billy Davis worked the case together.
At the time of his arrest Monday, Howard had his bags packed. He claimed to have just returned from a trip. Meeks said he believed Howard “might have been attempting to flee.”
Howard, during a 90-minute interview last week with authorities, confessed to the crime, Meeks said.
A few weeks ago, the girl told LaFayette High School principal Mike Culberson that she had been molested by Howard when she was younger. Culberson then told Cpl. Billy Mullis, student resource officer at the school, that the student said “a youth pastor at her church had touched her inappropriately on several occasions.”
Earlier this month, the girl was interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center in Fort Oglethorpe. She said the first incident happened in July 2009 during a motorcycle ride with Howard in Kensington, when she was 15. She also described incidents happening at a church in Walker County, while others occurred at Howard’s home.
Authorities have only been able to charge Howard for the one incident to which he confessed. Other incidents mentioned by the girl in the report occurred after her sixteenth birthday in a consensual relationship and, under Georgia law, cannot be prosecuted.
Meeks said the girl said she ended her relationship with Howard as he became increasingly controlling and manipulative. She said she came forward based on her conscience and to prevent it from potentially happening to another minor, Meek said. He commended her for stepping forward and “getting another potential child predator off the streets.”
In 2005 Howard was accused of molesting a 13-year-old girl in Chattooga County. Authorities investigated the accusation but did not have enough evidence to charge him. Howard was a youth minister in Trion.