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Thursday, May 11, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor and wife sex offenders jailed, given probation

As part of a plea deal reached by the State of Alabama and the victims of convicted sex offenders, Ralph Randall Melton and his wife, Cathy G. Melton, were sentenced to spend slightly more than three months is prison followed by 36 months probation.

Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds delivered the sentence yesterday morning after making sure the victims fully understood that what was about to be delivered was light considering the charges.

"Are you sure you want to do this," he asked family members gathered at the bench. "As far as the (plea) deal, I'd like nothing more than to put them away for the rest of their lives."

The couple plead guilty last month to raping and sodomizing their two children over a period of 18 years. The pair's daughter, Catherine Smith, said she and her brother, Andy Melton, agreed to the deal to expedite the legal process and put the whole situation behind them.

"Our justice will come after this lifetime," she said. "This has been dragging on for three years. We just wanted to put it behind us."

She added the fact that her parents now must register as convicted sex offenders was a consolation.

"Now, everyone will know what they've done," she said. "That will follow them for the rest of their lives like the memories of what they have done will follow us for the rest of ours."

Smith, who claimed she was repeatedly raped between 1975 and 1987, filed charges against the couple in April 2004.

Charges by the couple's son, Andy, soon followed.

Melton was the pastor at Prospect Baptist Church in Wilsonville at the time of his arrest, but has also been the pastor of New Salem Baptist Church and Big Springs Baptist Church in Chilton County.

Before the sentence was handed down, Jimmy Smith, Catherine's husband, read a statement from the victims detailing the abuse suffered at the hands of their parents.

"Catherine was robbed of the joy of growing up in a safe and happy family environment," the letter read. "Instead, she grew up in fear of what was to happen next."

"Andy has had his childhood robbed from him also," the letter continued. "He never enjoyed the games that normal seven-year-old boys played like baseball, football and basketball - instead Mr. and Mrs. Melton would include him in their sick, perverted games that lead to his rape by Mrs. Melton."

Before he was escorted from before the bench by deputies, Melton offered a muttered apology to his victims.

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