Court documents released in children's pastor sex abuse investigation
MUSCLE SHOALS, AL (WAFF) - Court documents were released Wednesday in the investigation into a Shoals children's pastor charged with sexual abuse, child pornography, and sodomy.
Muscle Shoals Police arrested Jeffrey Dale Eddie on Tuesday and charged him with two counts of child pornography, 31 counts of second-degree sodomy and three counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12.
Eddie served as the children's pastor at Highland Park Baptist Church in Muscle Shoals.
The court documents indicate it took ten days after one of the incidents was witnessed for it to be reported to police, and nearly two weeks for the accused children's minister to be arrested.
Investigators said a church employee stumbled upon Eddie with his arm around a young boy and a hand up his shirt on Jan. 22. Five days later on Jan. 27, that staff member reported what they saw to the head church pastor.
Two days later, on Jan. 29, court documents indicate church leaders asked to view Eddie's church-issued electronics. Three days later, Feb. 1, church leaders found pornographic images of children and notified police about their findings.
The next day, Feb. 2, police picked up Eddie for questioning. On Feb. 4, Eddie was arrested and charged.
Alabama law says those who are on the "mandatory list of reporters" must report suspected abuse to police immediately. "That ranges from doctors, nurses, social workers, all the way down to clergy, school teachers, daycare workers, or their employees... are required by Alabama law to report suspected child abuse or neglect immediately," said attorney Joe Daniel.
Daniel said failure to report abuse immediately is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of $500. Muscle Shoals police have not indicated that anyone else will face charges in this case.
According to the court documents, Eddie confessed to performing oral sex and other acts on several of the minor members of his church, numerous times. The court documents stated that the incidents were, "so many that Eddie advised he could not remember."
"These are very serious charges. It is a tragedy for everyone that's involved with this incident," said Muscle Shoals Police Chief Robert Evans.
"There's a lot of people hurt and upset, and rightfully so. My pledge to the people of Muscle Shoals and Colbert County is that justice will be served," said Colbert County District Attorney Bryce Graham.
Eddie's bond was set at over $1 million. His defense attorney said that amount is unfairly high, but prosecutors said this alleged predator needs to be kept off the streets. "Under Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure 7.2, if you live in this county and you are not a flight risk, you can have a lowered bond. I understand there's lots of hysteria about it, but some of it might not be true, and people need to at least wait until a court hears the evidence," said Defense Attorney Billy Underwood.
"Based on the evidence in this case and the seriousness of the allegations, we feel it's better for the community that the defendant remains incarcerated," said Graham.
Eddie's attorney said his client has been placed in a single cell and is on suicide watch at the Colbert County Jail. A preliminary hearing has been set for Feb. 18.
Muscle Shoals Police said more victims have come forward and they anticipate additional charges to be filed against Eddie. They asked that anyone impacted by the incident to contact Muscle Shoals Police or the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.
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