Genesis Baptist Church pastor found guilty of assault, plans to appeal

Published 10:40 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2016

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — A China Grove pastor, found guilty last week of inappropriately touching two women — and not guilty in another incident — will appeal the verdict, his lawyer says.

Gene Edwards, senior pastor of Genesis Baptist Church, gave notice to the court that he planned to appeal the judge’s decision.

District Court Judge Beth Dixon sentenced Edwards, 71, to a year of supervised probation, to undergo a psychological evaluation, obey the terms of his probation, be of good general behavior and have no contact with the other two women.

Once Edwards appeals, the case will go before a jury in Rowan Superior Court. The Nov. 29 District Court proceeding was heard only before a judge.

Edwards’ attorney, James Davis, said Edwards looks forward to a jury trial.

“First and foremost, we are respectful and appreciative of the judicial process,” Davis said. “Pastor Edwards has lived an exemplary life and was exonerated on two charges. He looks forward to the day when he is tried by his peers, a bedrock principle of our justice system.”

The decision came three months after three women who were members of Genesis church accused Edwards of inappropriately touching them. None of the women filed a report with law enforcement. Instead all three sought private warrants through the Rowan County Magistrate’s Office.

The women said Edwards hugged them longer than normal, tried to kiss one of them and in another incident brushed his hand against one woman’s breast. He pleaded not guilty to all offenses.

The court, hearing the case last week, found him not guilty in two incidents involving one woman.

The woman, who now lives in Mooresville, said the first incident occurred April 2015 at her home when she lived in China Grove. She said in her application for criminal process that Edwards “hugged me longer and harder than normal,” the statement said.

She went on to say he pressed against the sides of her breast with his hands and she felt very uncomfortable.

The 51-year-old woman made a second statement about a February incident at the church. She said they talked briefly and he put his arms out for a hug. She said in her statement she hugged Edwards back, but the hug seemed longer and harder.

The woman said that, during that same incident, Edwards began moaning and she backed away. She immediately said goodbye and left the church building.

The woman told the Post on Tuesday she felt sad that Edwards didn’t “acknowledge what he had one.”

She said she felt as if his request for appeal is so that “he’ll have another chance to be free of this, which frightens me.”

The woman said this ordeal hurts Edwards’ wife and “ultimately his position in the church.”

One woman, 67, wrote in her complaint that Edwards tried to kiss her on the mouth while she spoke with him at the church office. The China Grove woman said the incident occurred June 15.

The woman told the Post she was sad about the whole situation. She said she was pleased with the outcome in her case, “except he yet does not acknowledge that he did anything wrong.”

The China Grove resident said she only came forward after she learned of the incidents involving the other two women. She said Edwards asked for her forgiveness after the incident and she forgave him.

“I thought that was the end of it,” the woman said.

Initially the woman spoke with her husband, who left the decision up to her, but once other women came forward, he encouraged her to speak up, she said.

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.

The third woman, 75, said in her initial complaint she was inappropriately touched in August 2015. She said Edwards 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.

“I hate it happened,” she said Tuesday.

She said she also hates she lost her church family over this matter.

She thought the decision by the judge was fair, “even though he (Edwards) told those lies about me and the other women. God in heaven knows I told the truth.”

The woman said she hopes Edwards gets some help and “tries to do better or do what’s best for the church.”

The Post made attempts to reach Edwards by phone, but received no response by press time.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.