A former pastor in North Carolina gave a false report of child abuse to a sheriff’s office and schemed to get them to sign over parental rights for their teenage daughter who he is accused of sexually assaulting, authorities said.
Warrants issued for Trent Brandon Holbert, 41, detailed the events that led to his being charged by the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, indecent liberties with a child and two counts of felony statutory sex offense with a child under 15, the Asheville Citizen Times reported.
Before he resigned in June upon being charged, Holbert previously served as lead pastor of The Ridge Church in Black Mountain, N.C., affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Prior to that, he pastored at Epoch Fellowship Church in Owenton, Ky., as recently as 2017.
When Holbert reported the parents to the N.C. Division of Social Services with allegations of neglect, the claims were found not to be true, according to the warrants.
Investigators began working the case on May 17 when the victim’s parents contacted deputies about their child “engaging in a secret and sexual relationship with their former pastor,” according to a sheriff’s office search warrant dated May 18.
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The search warrants also said Holbert asked the victim’s parents to sign a waiver giving him parental rights in the event of their deaths. The parents refused and said the request bothered them.
When he was charged in June, the church released a statement signed by elder Drew Wheeler.
“The care and protection of children and minors is a biblical and moral mandate that is taken seriously by the Ridge Church. We do not condone such actions as the alleged, and our prayers are with the victims of any such abuse.”
The statement also read, “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of our former head pastor and the families of all of those involved.” The church’s website and Facebook page were taken offline as of June 21.
Neither Holbert nor his attorney responded to the newspaper’s request for comment.