Local youth pastor sentenced to up to 23 years in prison

Published 4:31 pm Friday, June 3, 2016

Benjamin Ross Hollifield, 26, of Salisbury was convicted this week in Rowan County Superior Court of seven counts of felony statutory rape/sex offense, four counts of felony indecent liberties with a minor, and one count of felony first degree sex exploitation of a minor.

Judge Joseph N. Crosswhite sentenced Hollifield to a minimum of 180 months (15 years) and a maximum of 276 months (23 years) in prison. Hollifield was ordered to register as a sex offender.

On April 16, 2015, detectives with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office began investigating a case involving sexual offenses. Hollifield, who was the youth pastor at Piedmont Baptist Church, told detectives that he began texting a young lady at his church. He stated that he knew it was inappropriate and the Holy Spirit told him to stop, but he and the young lady discussed kissing one another.

While Hollifield and his wife were working at the church in January, he told law enforcement that this was the first time he and the young lady kissed. He stated they continued to text one another, which eventually led to having sexual intercourse.

Hollifield told detectives that the first time he had sex with the young lady was at church after choir practice. He admitted that he knew the young lady was only 13 and it was wrong. Hollifield also had pornographic photos on his phone that he had shared.

District Attorney Brandy Cook said she appreciated the joint effort on behalf of Assistant District Attorney Paxton Butler and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office in holding Hollifield accountable for his criminal conduct.

“It is extremely unfortunate to see Hollifield, who was a trusted youth pastor, use his position to take advantage of the young lady,” Cook said. She said her office continues “to be committed to aggressively prosecuting offenders who would take advantage of children in our community.”