West Tennessee pastor found guilty of raping, abusing child

Ronnie Arthur Gorton. (Images: Tipton County Sheriff's Office, WTVC)

A Tennessee pastor has been found guilty of 24 counts involving child sex abuse in the first of three trials.

News outlets report a jury deliberated for less than two hours before finding 40-year-old Ronnie Gorton guilty Wednesday on charges including sexual battery and statutory rape. WMC-TV reports Gorton put his head down as the verdicts were read in Tipton County.

The 18-year-old victim told jurors the abuse started the day he moved in with Gorton and his wife in 2017. He said Gorton justified his actions by citing a Bible verse which said "holding each other is just a way to show love."

Gorton took the stand Wednesday and denied molesting the victim during two hours of testimony, though he admitted providing alcohol to the youth and other teens.

Gorton's sentencing hearing will start in November.

The pastor at the now-defunct Awakening Church in Atoka still faces trials involving two other teenagers who accused him of rape. One was 12 at the time.

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