Former pastor Ronnie Gorton, of Atoka, Tennessee, was arrested Tuesday on 47 charges related to the sexual abuse of minors.
Three accusers have come forward so far, one of whom is under the age of 13, but authorities believe it is possible there are more.
The allegations against Gorton first became public after deputies showed up to his home January 31 while responding to a report of a suicidal man.
Gorton was gone when deputies arrived, but when they located him, he was taken in for questioning and a psychiatric evaluation.
During their investigation, they learned that Atoka police were investigating Gorton after an underage boy accused Gorton of raping him. That incident allegedly took place at Gorton's home just weeks earlier.
A former neighbor said Gorton was known in the neighborhood for having young boys at his home, which he shared with his wife, but no one suspected Gorton was engaging in inappropriate activities.
“We knew he had a church and, you know, he had boys over there a lot,” said neighbor Donnie Overbeck.
“Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We thought, ‘Hey, he’s doing something good. He’s taking these kids in and doing good things,’” he said.
Gorton is charged with the following:
- 1 count rape
- 5 counts aggravated sexual battery (victim under 13 years old)
- 17 counts sexual battery by an authority figure
- 2 counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child
- 16 counts of statutory rape by an authority figure
- 2 counts offense of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor
- 2 counts contributing to delinquency
- 2 counts enticing a child to purchase alcoholic beverages
Walking into jail Tuesday, 39-year-old Gorton kept his head down and wouldn’t answer reporters’ questions.