Originally created 05/16/03

Preacher gets new abuse charges



AIKEN - Sexual assault charges continue to mount against a Bath evangelical preacher who made several guest appearances on a North Augusta Christian television station.

On Thursday, Aiken County Sheriff Mike Hunt said investigators had secured warrants against 31-year-old James Wesley McCoy in connection with sexual misconduct involving two girls, ages 13 and 14.

Mr. McCoy, who operates McCoy Ministries, a traveling evangelical group, has been jailed since Monday in Oconee County, S.C., on a felony charge of criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

"This is a big shock to everybody," said Dorothy Spaulding, a co-owner of WBPI-TV, a Christian station where Mr. McCoy made an appearance last month on the local evangelical program Club 36. "All I heard of him was nothing but good. He's an awesome minister of the gospel."

Sheriff Hunt said two sheriff's investigators went to Oconee County on Thursday to interview Mr. McCoy, who faces three counts of second-degree criminal sexual misconduct with a minor and seven counts of lewd acts upon a minor in Aiken County.

Sheriff Hunt said the acts occurred at Mr. McCoy's Minter Street home in Bath between November and May.

"We believe there may be more victims and hope they will come forward so we can properly investigate these abuses," Sheriff Hunt said.

The investigation into Mr. McCoy began in early April, when a 13-year-old girl told Oconee County authorities Mr. McCoy molested her in Seneca when she was 11. The inquiry has since widenedto include several counties.

Oconee County sheriff's Sgt. Greg Reed said authorities believe the number of victims could "snowball."

"There's already investigations in our county, Aiken, Laurens, Pickens and Floyd counties," Sgt. Reed said. "I think it's going to be widespread."

He said Mr. McCoy has talked to investigators and "been cooperative up to this point."

According to the McCoy Ministries Web site, Mr. McCoy has been preaching since age 12 and started the full-time ministry at 19. The site says McCoy Ministries receives more than 300 invitations yearly to conduct "Revival Awakening" meetings, crusades and seminars.

Sgt. Reed said Mr. McCoy has traveled extensively through South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.

"He stayed on the road a lot," Sgt. Reed said. "He told me he preached a minimum of four to five nights a week."

Mrs. Spaulding, who books Club 36, said Mr. McCoy "was not a regular guest on the show - I have hundreds of guests."

Authorities say anyone who might have been victimized by Mr. McCoy should come forward.

"Any parent that is aware of their child spending any length of time with him needs to contact their authorities," Sgt. Reed said.

The Aiken County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division can be reached at (803) 642-1790.

Reach Stephen Gurr at (803) 279-6895.