|A Brookwood High School
junior says her youth minister touched her sexually two
years ago when she was 14. He insists he didn't. |
Gwinnett County jury must decide whether Shannon Rhodes, 33, is
guilty of child molestation while he worked as youth
minister at Sunrise Baptist
Church in Lawrenceville.
The girl detailed her relationship
with Rhodes during more than two hours on the witness stand Tuesday.
She said there were three separate incidents during which he exposed
himself to her, tried to French kiss her and placed her hand to
The teen said she grew to love Rhodes but kept
their relationship from progressing because "it just didn't feel
right." She was a member of his youth group and knew Rhodes was
married and had a child, she said.
An investigation was
launched Dec. 10, 2000, after the girl told a school friend.
Rhodes left his job as youth minister at Sunrise Baptist
Church after his arrest on the felony charges. His bond agreement
bars him from contact with minors while the charges are pending,
said his attorney, Michael Katz of Decatur.
expected to hear testimony from a 21-year-old woman who alleges that
she and Rhodes had a relationship that began in 1994 when she was
age 13. The woman, who was in Rhodes' youth group, told police she
had sex for the first time with Rhodes, prosecutors allege.
Rhodes initially was charged with statutory rape, child molestation and aggravated child molestation in that case,
Lawrenceville police Detective Larry Riddle said. Those charges were
dropped because the 21-year-old thought she already may have turned
age 14 --- then the legal age of consent --- when the two began
sexual touching and had sexual intercourse, Gwinnett Assistant
District Attorney Nancy DuPree said.
The girl later confided
in her parents, who left the church but didn't initiate a police
Katz told jurors that the 21-year-old and
16-year-old knew each other as teens and that both have a history of
giving inconsistent statements.
The lawyer said Rhodes dealt
with hundreds of teenagers for years, but no one else alleged any