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Judge: New Hope Baptist pastor not guilty of sexual battery

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A judge determined a local pastor was not guilty of sexual battery following a three-day trial. Both the accuser and the pastor testified.

District Court Judge Kevin Eddinger said after hearing testimony and the evidence presented that Kenneth Darrell Worley, senior pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, was not guilty.

The accuser, Magen Stewart-Mills, told the court she’d briefly spoken with Worley at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. The two struck up a conversation and then he agreed to meet with her at her home to discuss faith.

She testified that while at her home Worley licked her ear and was sexually aroused while they sat on her couch.

She said the pastor asked if he could give her a hug and at that time licked her ear, then groped her breast and butt.

Worley, in his testimony denied the accusations, saying it never happened.

Worley’s attorney, James Davis, asked Stewart-Mills if she recalled an odor or smell coming from Worley. After a back and forth, Stewart-Mills said Worley wore cologne.

Worley told the court he never wore cologne and didn’t even have scented soap, shampoo or body wash. Davis called character witnesses to the stand, who one by one described never knowing the pastor to wear cologne.

One of the witnesses, Rowan County Sheriff’s Deputy Donnie Wagoner, has been a youth teacher at the church and said he found Worley to be very professional. Other witnesses said Worley was not a touchy kind of person and was always known to shake hands.

Jill Stewart, mother of the accuser, said her daughter told her she met someone at the doctor’s office. Stewart said at the time, her daughter was wrestling with “some faith issues.”

She said her daughter called her hysterical and was crying. Stewart said she could barely understand what her daughter was saying because she was so upset.

Stewart was concerned about her daughter because of the young woman’s issues in the past with depression. The mother did not go to her daughter’s house after the call when she learned a friend was on her way to the home.

Stewart-Mills admitted to waiting hours before reporting the incident. Worley visited the woman at her home around 10 a.m. and she contacted authorities around 3 p.m. at the insistence of that friend.

The friend, Haven Harrison, said Stewart-Mills told her the pastor pressed his body weight against her and “hugged her tight.”

She went on to say Stewart-Mills had to slide out from underneath the pastor.

Stewart-Mills said she was in shock at the time and wasn’t sure whether she wanted to report the incident to authorities.

When asked by Davis, Worley’s attorney, why she didn’t contact any neighbors, Stewart-Mills said they were all dead. She lives near Chestnut Hills Cemetery and has no immediate neighbors.

Later, she testified that she had an auto-immune disease that prevented her from walking.

A Salisbury Police investigator said on the stand she was assigned the case April 28. The initial report was made Feb. 2.

The detective said the woman was consistent with what she told police in February and in a follow up interview.

Davis said the case came down to believability. He asked if his client was “worthy of belief.”

During each day of trial, there were supporters in attendance for both Stewart-Mills and Worley.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

 

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