Editor's note: This story was updated April 10 to correct an error in the 12th paragraph.
FRANKLIN, Ind. (ABP) — A former Southern Baptist pastor in central Indiana has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for molesting a 15-year-old church member in a relationship that began with him counseling the girl because she was not getting along with her mother.
Daniel Moore, 50, former pastor of New Whiteland Baptist Church near Franklin, Ind., pleaded guilty March 15 to felony child solicitation and sexual misconduct charges in exchange for a 10-year sentence. A Johnson County circuit court judge approved the plea bargain at a sentencing hearing April 8.
The girl's mother, who is not being identified to protect the privacy of her daughter, said she was satisfied with the sentence because she didn't want to put the now soon-to-be 17-year-old through the trauma of a jury trial.
In a victim's impact statement, the mother said Moore started counseling the girl at her request. When she told the pastor she was monitoring who her daughter talked to and texted through her online account, the mother said Moore gave the girl a SIM card for her phone from another account.
After confronting both Moore and his wife about inappropriate notes, the mother said she received a call from the girl's school in March 2009 reporting she was seen with a suspicious-looking elderly man. Searching her daughter's room, the mother said she found other notes from the defendant to her daughter, including one that said, "I love you with the purest love of God."
After going to the police, the woman, who had been an active member of New Whiteland Baptist Church for nine years, said just two church members called to see how they were doing. After that, she said, there was no more contact.
Entering the courtroom April 8, the mother said she was surprised how many people from the former church were there to support their former pastor. At the end of the hearing, she said, Moore's stepdaughter said to her daughter, "I hope you rot in hell," for her role in assisting in the prosecution of the case.
During her testimony, the mother said before two years ago, she probably would have been speaking in Moore's defense. She worked with him in vacation Bible school, traveled with him on mission trips, accompanied him on visitation and witnessing to flood victims and was a leader in Sunday school. "I trusted him completely," she said, which made his betrayal even worse.
The worst moment, she said, came when a detective came to her house to remove sheets from her daughter's bed, and they came back testing positive with Moore's DNA.
The mother said none of the defendant's family or supporters testified at the hearing. Only she and her husband, the girl's stepfather, took the stand.
In his letter to Judge K. Mark Loyd, the husband said he believed that Moore is a sexual predator who misused the Bible to seduce a child. He said while his faith in God has never wavered, the episode has shaken his faith in organized religion.
Not in attendance was Ernest James, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in nearby Greenwood, Ind. James and other leaders of the church sent a letter to Judge Loyd filed March 24 in anticipation of Moore's sentencing hearing.
Church leaders informed the judge that, at their invitation, Moore had worshiped among them for several months "quietly, humbly and essentially anonymously, as it is his desire to avoid drawing attention to himself and for his fear of embarrassment to the church."
The letter described Moore as "tearfully repentant, remorseful, regretful and ashamed." It said church staff and deacons pledged to help him in "continued healing and restoration" and to act as a group of support and accountability "both during and after his incarceration."
James did not respond to a request for comment.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.