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Felon was house parent at boarding school

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

A felon who authorities say committed suicide after church members confronted him about inappropriately touching children was a house parent for a Christian boarding school in Rowan County, the Salisbury Post reported.

Danny Ray Kesler, 59, was approached earlier this month by parents at Bible Missionary Baptist Church in Rockwell about alleged sexual contact with three girls who attended City of Refuge school, which is affiliated with the church.

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said Kesler and his wife were both house parents, according to the Post. House parents take parental responsibility for children at boarding schools, particularly outside of school hours.

It wasn’t clear Sunday whether the church knew about Kesler’s criminal record before hiring him. Buddy Hofner, the church’s pastor, didn’t return messages seeking comment, and the church hasn’t issued a public statement.

Kesler’s obituary says he had a master’s degree in Bible studies. The Sheriff’s Office described Kesler as a felon with previous convictions for possessing marijuana, selling cocaine, driving while impaired, damaging personal property, engaging in disorderly conduct and forging.

According to its website last week, the church has a history of ministering to people who have been to prison. One such ministry, the Refuge Transitional House, is aimed at people who’ve been released from prison in the past three months.

Since news of the allegations became public, the website has been taken down.

It’s unclear how long church members knew about the allegations. On Feb. 3, church members confronted Kesler about the suspected physical contact, which sheriff’s investigators said involved teenagers.

“Kesler told the officials that he was sorry for what he had done and that he was not going back to prison,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. “Danny Kesler put his coat on and said that he was going outside for some fresh air, and shortly thereafter he was found outside, on the church property, with a gunshot wound to his head.”

Investigators say the gunshot wound was self-inflicted. The investigation into the allegations of inappropriate touching of children is continuing.

Kesler is survived by a wife, five daughters and 12 grandchildren.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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