By Roger Adkins
A Roane County man and former pastor of a Ripley Church has been arrested for allegedly soliciting a minor, police said.
Douglas Edward Harper, 39, of Gandeville, was being sought on a charge of solicitation of a minor by use of an electronic device, according to a press release from the West Virginia State Police. He was being arraigned in Jackson County Magistrate Court at press time.
State Police allege Harper, while a pastor at Ripley Living Water Church, sent text messages that were sexual in nature to a 15-year-old boy.
In a separate arrest related to the case, Justin K. Cox, of Cottageville, was charged with interfering with an investigation by providing false information and obstructing an officer, according to a criminal complaint filed against him in Jackson County Magistrate Court.
According to the complaint, Cox came into the Ripley State Police Detachment and told Cpl. M.P. Fannin about Harper's alleged unethical behavior. Cox said Harper exchanged texts with a 15-year-old male member of the church. In the texts was a conversation in which the pastor allegedly asked to see the youth in his boxers. The victim's family felt there were other messages alluding to sexual misconduct, according to the complaint.
Fannin asked Cox if he was directly involved or had seen the tex messages in questions, and Cox allegedly said no. Cox said his position within the church was that of senior leader and he was advised by the church elders and leaders of the issue because he was a former law enforcement officer.
According to the complaint, Fannin asked Cox if he had the victim's parents' names, contact information and, possibly, an address. Cox told Fannin he could only provide names but did not know where the family lived. Fannin told Cox to take his name and contact information to the church and relay it to the family and that he had to speak to the victim and parents to determine the severity of the accusations.
During the course of the investigation, from April 19 to May 31, Cox interviewed or spoke to the victim and the parents, as well as members of the church, and allegedly made multiple false statements regarding Fannin and the actions within his police investigation, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, after leaving the Ripley Detachment, Cox allegedly followed up with a phone call to the victim's parents and said he had spoken to the police and had conveyed all the information needed to conduct a thorough investigation.
Cox also gave members of the church misleading information regarding Fannin and his investigation.