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Wednesday, June 28, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor arrested for rape of congregant

A pastor was arrested in Cocoa Florida on charges he forced a member of his congregation to have sex. Police said the victim, a member of the congregation, believed the pastor to be her "spiritual advisor."

Police arrested 43-year-old Jesse French, the pastor of the Solid Life Ministries-Church of Disciples in Rockledge, Florida, on 10 counts of sexual battery and 15 counts of lewd and lascivious to a member of his congregation.

"She's been raised in a very tight very religious home and for someone to come in and turn something like this against her, it's just really appalling and unbelievable to me," said Detective Barbara Matthews, Cocoa Police Department.

Police said, three to four months ago, French told the victim that he needed to anoint her with oil, stating that God advised him to do so because the victim was tired. It was then, police said, French began by anointing the victim's arms and legs.

The victim told police that, around the beginning of March, French advised her that he needed to anoint her entire body. French allegedly told the victim to undress and he rubbed oil onto her body. It was at that time, police said, French sexually molested the victim and raped her.

"He finally convinced her, over a period of months, that she needed to be naked while he did this. Went from there to fondling her, to actual sexual intercourse," Matthews said.

The victim told police that they began having sexual intercourse, with French telling her he didn't need to wear a condom because he had had an "operation" and couldn't get her pregnant. French also allegedly forced the victim to fondle him.

Police said French wrote a letter to the victim, stating they needed to have three "one-hour "sessions" or "one three-hour session" in order to have the victim's "yoke" removed.

The first of their "sessions" was, according to police, June 19. The "session," police said, was sexual intercourse. The victim told police that, prior to that, she and French had sexual intercourse nine other times. The victim, police said, repeatedly told French that she did not want to have sex with him and that it was wrong.

"She kept telling him this was wrong, and he would quote scripture to her and convinced her this was God's will," Matthews said.

Members of the church locked the doors Tuesday and refused to make any official comment.

"No, we can't tell you anything. He's a good pastor," said an unidentified woman at the church. "We can't explain it."

Police are concerned that there may be other victims in French's congregation. According to police, since the bond, they have received two calls from anonymous women advising that they believed there were additional victims, but those victims have not come forward.

"He used a very deep belief system she had against her, and I just find it hard to believe this is his only victim," Matthews said.

French was being held in the Brevard County jail without bond. He refused requests for an interview. His attorney said French denies ever having sex with the woman.

French's previous criminal record: He was arrested a number of times for things such as battery, domestic violence, extortion, obstruction of justice, and violating injunctions or protective orders. Many of the cases were dropped, because victims or witnesses refused to cooperate.