FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) — The first day of a jury trial in a high-profile sexual abuse case in Lauderdale County is set to begin Monday morning.
The former pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Florence, John Thomas Martin, admitted in a June 2019 pulpit confession that he had inappropriate relationships with young men, according to the Assistant District Attorney in Lauderdale County, Coty Hand.
According to the church’s website at the time, Martin had been the pastor since 2010. He immediately resigned from his role following the confession.
Less than a week after his confession, he was arrested and taken to the Lauderdale County Detention Center and placed on a $60,000 bond. In all, Hand said Martin admitted to four counts of sexual abuse of a child – those charges involve a victim younger than 16.
Following Martin’s confession, members of the church immediately contacted One Place of the Shoals, a family justice center. The organization launched an investigation right away.
District Judge Carole Medley reclassified the documents of the case as confidential following a request from prosecutors in an effort to protect the identities of the victims. The motion not only made documents unavailable to the general public but also meant that prosecutors and defense attorneys could not discuss the case outside of court.
News 19 also learned Martin was under investigation for similar allegations in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where Martin may have acted inappropriately while serving as a youth pastor at Bellewood Baptist Church in 2004.
At last check, no charges were filed in that investigation.
If convicted, Martin faces up to 10 years in prison for each charge as well as a lifetime on the sex offender registry.