Supporters attend first appearance backing local pastor accused of assaulting three women

Published 3:48 pm Thursday, September 1, 2016

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — Dozens of supporters attended a first court appearance for a China Grove pastor accused of inappropriately touching three women, all of whom filed private warrants through the Rowan County Magistrate’s Office.

Gene Edwards, 71, pastor of Genesis Baptist Church, appeared in court Thursday surrounded by members and supporters. Jennifer Davis Hammond, with the Davis Law Firm, said Edwards is working to retain the firm to represent him.

Hammond said Edwards needs more time to meet with an attorney. The case was continued to Sept. 29.

One of the victims asked the judge if they could meet in court sooner rather than later. District Court Judge Beth Dixon asked Edwards to have no contact with the victims, which drew scoffs from some in the audience.

The victims and their supporters were released first and after a few minutes Edwards and his supporters left the courtroom.

Private warrants were sought against Edwards, of the 5800 block of Self Road, Kannapolis, on Aug. 2 and Aug. 18 for misdemeanor assault on a female.

One victim said the incident occurred April 2015 at her then China Grove home. She said in her application for criminal process that Edwards “hugged me longer and harder than normal,” the statement said.

He pressed against the sides of the woman’s breasts with his hands, according to the statement. She said she felt very uncomfortable.

The same victim said in a second statement the incident occurred around Feb. 1 at the church in the pastor’s office. She said they talked a short time and he put his arms out for a hug.

She said in the statement she did hug him back, but the hug seemed to be longer and harder. The victim said said she tried to push him away, but he got closer. She said he began moaning and she backed away. She said goodbye and left the building.

A second victim said the pastor touched her inappropriately in August 2015. She said he hugged her and then asked for another hug. She told him he’d had one and then he tried to kiss her. The woman said she tried to free herself from his grasp.

The third victim said the incident occurred June 15 at the church. She said they were in his office and he tried to kiss her on the mouth. She threatened to leave the church and even wrote a letter. However, she stayed and gave the pastor the benefit of the doubt, until another victim came forward.

Lou P. Romans, a member of Genesis Baptist Church, said she supports her pastor. She does not believe the accusations made against Edwards.

She believes the women were prompted by a former assistant minister, who is no longer at the church.

Romans was puzzled as to why the women would accuse the pastor, she said because Edwards has helped the women in the past.

She said these accusations have split the church, but some people have stayed.

“I do not believe Christians should take problems to the court system, this is not scripture,” Romans said.

She said Edwards has always been respectful of her.

Another supporter, Monica Bruns, said Edwards is a “God-fearing man” and a “good Christian.”

“It’s just a bunch of lies,” she said as she walked from the courtroom.

Gene Edwards did not want to comment.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.