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WAAY 31 I-TEAM: Report details sex abuse charges against Florence pastor

John Thomas Martin, who until June 23 was the pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church, was arrested Friday on four charges of first-degree sexual abuse.

Posted: Jul 2, 2019 1:53 PM
Updated: May 4, 2021 11:44 AM

Documents filed in the arrest of Florence pastor John Thomas Martin reveal new details about the charges he faces.

Martin, who until June 23 was the pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church, was arrested Friday on four charges of first-degree sexual abuse.

John Martin

His victim, according to a case summary from the Lauderdale County sheriff, was “in either 6th or 7th grade” the first time Martin sexually assaulted him. 

Occasions when Martin is said to have performed sex acts on the now-teenage boy from his church, and forced the victim to do the same to him, are detailed in the report.

Court documents say the victim said when everyone had gone to sleep during camping trips at the Martin family home for his son's birthday, Martin would get in the victim's tent and touch him. On another occasion, the victim said they were in a van on an overnight trip out-of-state when Martin touched him again.

The report says the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office became aware of the allegations against Martin via a report to the Department of Human Resources.

WAAY 31 also learned Martin was a school bus driver for Florence City Schools. The school system wasn't sure for how long, because they contract drivers through a company named First Student. We have reached out to that company to see how long Martin was a bus driver, but haven't heard back.

The accuser claims he was on Martin's school bus when Martin showed him nude photos of himself with a towel over his body. The victim also stated Martin would text him on various occasions and asked him if he had touched himself that day. The victim said he was always scared to come forward and would freeze up when Martin would touch him.

A church representative contacted a DHR worker and said Martin told the church congregation on June 23 that he had “disgraced his family name because he had sex with two boys.”

“After telling the church what he had done, Mr. Martin went to the North Alabama Medical Center and voluntarily committed himself into the psychiatric unit and turned over two pistols to the medical staff,” the report says.

In a statement to the sheriff’s office, the report says Martin had earlier asked his wife to take his pistol from him “because he had been holding it to his head and contemplating suicide.”

Martin is being held on a $60,000 bond.

If he posts bond, he is not allowed to have contact with the victims or any minor children. He also is not allowed to leave Lauderdale County, and must wear a GPS ankle monitor so his location can be tracked at all times.

The Lauderdale County District Attorney's Office tells WAAY 31 there could be other victims. It's asking parents to talk with their children if they came into contact with Martin. It's also contacting other states where Martin had previously been a pastor.

From earlier: Florence pastor charged with sexual abuse

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