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6 Central Texas pastors named in accused sexual abuser list released by Southern Baptist Convention

Though 6 News identified six cases within our viewing area, there could be more due to parts of the list being redacted.

TEMPLE, Texas — At least six local pastors and teachers were named among the hundreds of Baptist leaders accused or found guilty of sexual abuse of children, according to a 205-page document released by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

The convention released the list last Thursday, which includes cases between 2000 to 2019.

RELATED: Southern Baptist leaders release secret accused abuser list

The list was released in response to an independent investigation by Guidepost Solutions LLC, which concluded SBC leaders failed the public and its community by mishandling sexual abuse cases and mistreated victims and survivors, according to their report.

"In service of this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy – even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation," the report said.

SBC released a statement regarding why its leaders made the decision to release their internal list:

"This list is being made public for the first time as an initial, but important, step towards addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the Convention," the statement said. "Each entry in this list reminds us of the devastation and destruction brought about by sexual abuse. Our prayer is that the survivors of these heinous acts find hope and healing, and that churches will utilize this list proactively to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us."

Though 6 News identified six cases within our viewing area, there could be more due to parts of the list being redacted.

According to SBC, the list has redactions because there are entries "that reference an admission, confession, guilty plea, conviction, judgment, sentencing, or inclusion on a sex offender registry. The only exception to those entries is the redaction of names or identifying information of survivors and/or other individuals unrelated to the offender."

Below is a list of local names that were released within the document:

Sergio David Bezerra

Current location: Imprisoned in McLennan County

Timeline: 

  • 2014: Bezerra, who was a teacher at Waco Baptist Academy for 13 years, was convicted of abusing two elementary school students in 2007, the document states. He was convicted of four counts of indecency with a child and sentenced to 80 years in prison; 20 years for each count.
  • 2016: Bezerra lost an appeal
  • 2017: Waco Baptist Academy was renamed to Eagle Christian Academy
  • Current: Appeal is pending, per the leaked document

William Frank Brown

Current location: Imprisoned in McLennan County

Timeline:

  • 2009: Brown, who was the pastor of Bellmead First Baptist Church, was sentenced to a total of 200 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated sexual assault involving a young girl, the document states (50 years of prison per count). He was accused of abusing her from 2005 to 2007, the document continues.
  • 2034: Brown will be eligible for parole

Impact: 

The Bellmead church was sold off due to the Brown case. It once had 1,500 members and declined to barely a dozen, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Benjamin Nelson

Current location: Imprisoned

Timeline:

  • 2017: Nelson was arrested in February on two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child (the same teen), per documents. Per police, the teen's mom caught her 13-year-old daughter with Nelson in a parking lot near the family's home. They added that Nelson groomed the girl on "Snapchat" two weeks before they met and engaged in sexual contact.
    • At the time of his offenses, he was a pastor of a small Baptist church west of Hillsboro. He was also a first-year student at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary.
  • 2018: Nelson was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a teenage girl, the Whitney Police Department told 6 News back then.

Curtis Jene Smith

Current location: Living in Mexia, Texas, on the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry

Timeline:

  • 1991: Smith was convicted for sexual abuse of two boys, according to the document
  • 2002: He failed to register as a sex offender in Burnet County in 2002, the document continues.
  • 2005: He was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to abusing a 12-year-old boy after he drove the boy home from youth choir practice, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported.
  • 2006: At the age of 38, Smith became a music director for youth choir and a Bible study teacher at Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church located in Waco
    • At the time, Rev. Carl Buhl, pastor of the church in Waco, said Smith continued to work at the church because Smith said the charges against him were dismissed and that church officials didn't run a background check on him because of his known work at other-area churches, according to the Tribune.
  • 2020: Per the Texas Department of Public Safety, Smith is registered as a sex offender living in Mexia, Texas.

Anthony Lynn Thibodeaux

Current location: Living in Mexia, Texas, on the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry

Timeline:

  • 2012: As a pastor at Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church, Thibodeaux sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl, the document adds.
  • 2013: Thibodeaux, of Mexia, was convicted to 10 years in prison for sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency with a child by contact, the document states.
  • 2017: Per the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry, Thibodeaux was released after four years in prison and is now on parole
  • 2019: The registry said he registered in 2019 with the Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville
  • Now: Currently resides in Mexia, Texas

Gary Don Welch

Current location: Imprisoned in Navarro County

Timeline:

  • 2012: Welch, who was a youth minister at Northside Baptist Church in Corsicana, Texas, was sentenced to 55 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to four counts, including aggravated sexual assault and indecency with a child, the document states. Per the document, a 16-year-old girl told authorities she was sexually assaulted by Welch since she was 13 back in 2009.

There could be more victims, cases

SBC, along with Guidepost Solutions and the Sexual Abuse Task Force are asking any victims or survivors of alleged sexual abuse cases within the church to call a hotline for assistance.

The hotline can be reached at 202-864-5578 or SBChotline@guidepostsolutions.com. Your name will remain confidential.

RELATED: Southern Baptist leaders release secret accused abuser list

RELATED: Report: Hundreds abused by Southern Baptist leaders, workers

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