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Friday, September 14, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor arrested on child molestation charges

FRESNO, Calif. -— The Reverend John Bonine is accused of molesting two girls. John Bonine's public defender says the Pastor of Sierra Heights Baptist Church could be facing life in prison if convicted because there are two children involved.

Bonine faces more than 100 criminal charges of child molestation. John Bonine looked nervous as he made his first court room appearance Thursday afternoon and pleaded not guilty.

Jim Lambe, defense attorney, says, "What is important is that there are two alleged victims, so there for the case would carry a life sentence." It's been four years since Bonine started his job as Senior Pastor at Sierra Heights Baptist Church.

Mansel Trimble, youth pastor, says, "We're hurt and this is a very unsettling time. At the same time, we're looking towards healing." Mansel Trimble is the youth pastor and speaks on behalf of the 200 members. He and investigators say the molestations are not connected to the church.

Trimble continues to support Bonine. Trimble says, "I just hope these things aren't true. Either way, we're looking at being compassionate towards our pastor and especially towards his family."

Authorities are not releasing many details. But, the district attorney filed a 43 page criminal complaint. In it, Bonine faces 107 charges for molesting two children.

The document states the crime started in January of 2003 and spanned continuously nearly 5 years to August 31, 2007. The alleged victims are two teenage girls.

Bonine's family declined to comment. Bonine remains in jail. His bail is set at more than $5 million.