Investigators look into claims of inappropriate contact at City of Refuge

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 22, 2014

ROCKWELL — Authorities say the allegations against a Christian school employee who shot himself last week involved three teenage girls.
The girls were living at the City of Refuge boarding school, where Danny Ray Kesler was a house parent, and came forward with the allegations that he’d had inappropriate “sexually related” contact with them, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said.
The school is run by Bible Missionary Baptist Church and is on the same Old Concord Road property. When church officials confronted Kesler, 59, about the allegations, he went outside, and authorities say, he took his own life.
Rowan County Sheriff’s Capt. John Sifford said it’s not clear when church officials learned of the allegations, but they had not notified law enforcement before Kesler’s suicide.
Sifford said as far as he knows, the church is cooperating with law enforcement.
Calls to Bible Missionary Baptist Church for comment were not returned.
Sifford also said Kesler’s wife Sherry, who was also a house parent at City of Refuge, 11360 Concord Road, didn’t appear to be involved.
Investigators want to make sure there are no other possible victims, he said.
An email to the Post said two of the victims ran away from the school last week, which prompted the confrontation by church officials.
But Sifford said the girls walked away earlier in the day before the suicide occurred, but they were only gone a short time and were not reported as runaways. The girls, he said, were picked up by people from the church.
Before taking his own life, the statement said, Kesler told church officials he was sorry for what he had done but that he was not going back to prison.
Kesler has previous convictions for possession of marijuana, soliciting the sale of cocaine, driving while impaired, injury to personal property, probation violation, disorderly conduct, violation of court order, (felonious) forgery of instrument, and common law forgery.
In 2002, allegations surfaced of physical and sexual assault of children at the school, but no charges were filed. The pastor, the Rev. Buddy Hoffner, denied any such abuse occurred.