North Carolina

Suspicious church members turn in pastor who ends up being sex offender, SC cops say

Congregants at Bethlehem Grove Baptist Church in South Carolina went to deputies with concerns about their pastor — only to discover he was a registered sex offender, local media outlets reported Friday.

Police say they arrested Henry Masten II on Thursday at the church for failing to register his employment with Laurens County and the Richland County Sheriff’s Office, according to Fox Carolina.

The sheriff’s office did not respond to McClatchy newsgroup’s request for information on Friday.

“Several members of the Bethlehem Grove Baptist Church located in Clinton, SC came to the sheriff’s office to voice their concerns about the pastor of the church, Henry Masten II,” the Index Journal quoted a news release from police as saying. “The sheriff’s office investigated the concerns and found Mr. Masten to be a tier III registered sex offender out of Richland County.”

Citing the release, WSPA said tier III sex offender classification can include sexual assault, sexual contact against children under the age of 13 and “nonparental kidnapping of minors.”

Fox Carolina reports that Masten carries a 2014 conviction in Ohio for “gross sexual imposition” and a 2007 conviction in Richland County for second degree burglary.

Police on Thursday charged Masten with failing to register, according to the Index Journal. Failure to register “is a misdemeanor and can carry a penalty of up to a $1,000 fine and 366 days in prison.”

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.