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Monday, May 07, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Minister sued by victims

NEWARK, Ohio -- A former Hebron minister, who is spending seven years in prison on sex-abuse convictions, is being sued by the two teenage sisters he victimized.

The lawsuit, filed last week in Licking County Common Pleas Court, seeks more than $3 million in damages from Lonnie Aleshire Jr., the Licking Baptist Church, the American Baptist Churches of Ohio and its national church and various church officials.

The suit alleges, among other things, that Aleshire and other defendants defamed and ostracized the sisters, who are former members of Licking Baptist Church, after they came forward in 2005 accusing him of sexual abuse.

Aleshire, 36, was the church's associate pastor and was in charge of the youth ministry. He pleaded guilty in November 2005 to 10 charges, including one count of rape and six of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. He molested the girls between 2002 and 2004, authorities said.

Judge Jon Spahr sentenced him to a mandatory seven years in prison. Aleshire is incarcerated in the Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

The suit says that Licking Baptist Church, its congregation and Pastor Lonnie Aleshire Sr., the man's father, "took action against the plaintiffs by making false and defamatory statements against them between January 2005 to December 2006."

Columbus lawyer Ross Gillespie, who represents the sisters, said yesterday that they deserve compensation for the pain and suffering caused by Lonnie Aleshire Jr. as well as the emotional trauma they continue to endure.

"We have tried to resolve the issue informally. We didn't want to file suit," he said. "They feel they have been forced down this road."

The Rev. Lawrence O. Swain, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Ohio, said he is aware of the lawsuit.

"I'm in the process of (reviewing) it and in contact with legal counsel," he said. "I can't say anything at this point. It would be inappropriate."

Both Aleshire and his father are no longer with the church, Swain said. He declined to elaborate.

Columbus lawyer James Brudny Jr., who represents the church, could not be reached for comment yesterday.


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