A Tennessee man included on a list compiled by two Texas newspapers naming Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers found guilty of sex crimes has been arrested for violating sex offender registry rules.
Police in Jackson, Tennessee, arrested 39-year-old Chad Eugene Lutrell on Feb. 12 after he allegedly visited a private Catholic school, violating terms related to his 2009 conviction of sexual battery against a child.
According to the Jackson Sun, Lutrell allegedly went to the school to discuss a possible business deal regarding the school’s recyclable materials and was spotted while leaving by someone who recognized him as a registered sex offender.
Lutrell got on the sex offender registry a decade ago by pleading guilty to inappropriately touching a 10-year-old girl sent by her mother to a Vacation Bible School at First Baptist Church of Bemis, Tennessee, where Lutrell served as a volunteer. He is one of about 220 Southern Baptists who were convicted of sex crimes or received deferred prosecution in plea deals documented in a recent investigative story by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News.
The child’s family later filed a $2 million lawsuit accusing the church of negligence for allowing Lutrell access to children despite past allegations of inappropriate conduct with both adult female church members and girls as young as 6. The lawsuit was settled for a confidential sum in 2016.
The pastor of First Baptist Church of Bemis at the time contacted police in December 2006 seeking advice about a “growing problem” with a church member. According to the police report, the pastor said Lutrell had been touching girls in the 6-10 age group and was caught kissing one of them on the mouth. The initial report said at least three adult women also accused him of stalking.
Asked if he wanted to file a complaint, the investigating officer reported, the pastor said he was trying to “follow biblical guidelines” and did not know what would be done.
After Lutrell’s criminal conviction in June 2009, the same pastor asked to “clarify” information in the earlier report. Rather than kissing a female juvenile on the mouth, the pastor said nearly three years later, Lutrell “had in fact kissed her on the cheek.”
Earlier accusations that Lutrell had touched juveniles inappropriately were “incorrect,” according to the revised report, and “no one had ever made such allegations.”
Concerning the initial report that Lutrell stalked and made threats to three women, the revised version said, “there had been only one incident of him sending an inappropriate e-mail to the young lady and following her home once.”
A support group for survivors of church sex abuse said in 2014 the pastor should be investigated for making a false police report. The pastor, who left the church in 2011, did not respond to a media request at the time.
After his 2009 conviction for sexual battery, Lutrell got in trouble again in 2013 for allegedly stalking three women employed at a local Wal-Mart where he frequently shopped.
Lutrell is among some 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers who faced allegations of sexual misconduct in the last 20 years identified earlier this month in a three-part investigative report titled “Abuse of Faith” by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. During a six-month investigation, the two newsrooms identified more than 700 victims. Since the story’s release, one of the lead writers said Feb. 21, they have heard from hundreds more.
The 2009 lawsuit said the Tennessee mother was “blamelessly unaware” of Lutrell’s history when she sent her daughter to Vacation Bible School.
“The choice to allow Chad Lutrell to interact with children who were without their parental supervision posed an egregious threat to the safety of children enrolled in the Vacation Bible School,” the lawsuit stated.
The family’s attorney said Lutrell never should have been allowed to work with children.
“He’s an animal quite frankly, and probably couldn’t control his actions,” attorney Adam Horowitz told a Tennessee television station in 2014. “But the church could have, and had they made safer decisions this would have never happened.”
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