By Bob Allen
A Mississippi judge ruled Dec. 18 that the state’s statute of limitations does not prevent prosecution of a former Southern Baptist music minister charged with molesting five boys in the early 1980s.
Hinds County Circuit Judge Bill McGowan rejected a motion to dismiss an eight-count indictment against John Langworthy, associate pastor of music and ministries at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss., prior to his arrest in September 2011.
After turning down a plea bargain, Langworthy is scheduled to stand trial Jan. 28 on eight counts of gratification of lust, but according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the impending holidays might necessitate a new date. Originally put on the docket for April 2, the trial has already been postponed three times while Langworthy is out of jail on $700,000 bond.
In August 2011, Langworthy confessed to the Morrison Heights congregation of “sexual indiscretions with younger males” prior to coming to Clinton 22 years earlier. After that, prosecutors say six victims came forward to report they had been molested by Langworthy when they were children.
Five of them described being sexually abused by Langworthy in Mississippi. A sixth said he was sexually molested by Langworthy at a church in Texas. Langworthy left Mississippi in 1984 after graduating from Mississippi College, a Christian school affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention. He was reportedly fired by Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas amid allegations of inappropriate behavior with youth in 1989, but was not reported to police as required by law.
Prosecutors said Langworthy gained trust of his victims’ families through local churches. He would volunteer to babysit at their homes, where he is accused of sexually abusing boys ages 6-11 between April 1980 and December 1984. Other attacks allegedly took place at Langworthy’s sister’s home in Jackson and in Langworthy’s dorm room at Mississippi College.
Amy Smith, Houston representative for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, welcomed news that the case against Langworthy will move forward.
“Delaying or denying the trial would only have endangered kids and hurt victims,” said Smith, a former co-worker and family friend with Langworthy who worked two years to bring allegations from his past to light. “We applaud these brave survivors who have come forward to seek justice and protect other kids.”
Smith quoted one of Langworthy’s victims who said he is “relieved, overjoyed and hopeful that this will give other victims a voice both here in Mississippi and in Texas.”
“Now, more than ever, anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered sex crimes at the hands of John Langworthy should come forward and make a report to police,” Smith said. “Children are safer when predators like Langworthy are behind bars. The light of truth and knowledge is our greatest tool to protect kids.”