SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office officials said a local minister was arrested on charges after he admitted to having sex and impregnating a teenage girl.
According to a sheriff’s office news release, Phillip Jerard Buckson, of Boiling Springs, was charged with four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
On Jan. 30, investigators assigned with the Internet Crimes Against Task Force received two tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the victim was identified and interviewed.
Phillip Jerard Buckson (From: Spartanburg Co. Sheriff’s Office)
In the sheriff’s office report, the tips received were in regards to the exchange of child pornography.
During the investigation, Buckson was identified as the suspect.
The victim told investigators that she and Buckson had sex multiple times at Buckson’s home in Cherokee County starting on Oct. 9, 2015.
According to the report, the victim was 13 years old at the time of the incident, and said that she and Buckson also had sex multiple times throughout Spartanburg County as well.
The victim alleged that the sexual encounters in Spartanburg County occurred in the beginning of her first semester of 9th grade, when she was 14 years old.
According to the report, the victim said that she became pregnant on two occasions and said she had two abortions to terminate both pregnancies.
“Child sexual abuse is a far too prevalent problem,” said Emily Miller, Executive Director at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Spartanburg, Cherokee, and Union. “We know that sexual abuse can lead to post traumatic stress symptoms but we also know that we have interventions that have been proven to help those symptoms subside.”
A magistrate approved warrants charging Buckson on Wednesday.
He was arrested at his church and taken to the sheriff’s office, where he gave a full confession to the allegations.
During his bond hearing Thursday, Buckson’s bond was set at a total of $20,000, $5,000 per charge.
His next court date was set for April 25.
During the hearing, Buckson was told to not have any direct or indirect contact with the victim or the victim’s family.
Buckson is listed as a pastor at Cleveland Chapel Baptist Church in Spartanburg County, according to the church’s website.
“Everything is joyous over there all the time,” said William Slockbower who lives near the church. “”To hear about it from a church and eveyrthing is disturbing enough and then living this close to it. But you can’t really judge one person’s actions by the whole church itself.”
Bible study was canceled Wednesday.
Congregants tell 7News the church has at least 150 members and is more than 100 years old.
They did not want to talk on camera but said Buckson was a really good preacher, they’re hurt by these charges, and ask that people pray for their church.
Buckson was also a star basketball player for Gaffney High School, helping the team win state championships.
Miller said studies show about 1 in 10 children will experience child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.
“As all responsible adults we need to move beyond just talking about ‘stranger-danger’ but talk with our kids about body safety rules,” said Miller. “We know 80% of the time these things happen in isolated one-on-one situations so another proactive thing that parents can do is make sure that the places where your children go, the organizations where they go, youth service settings, faith communities, do they have child protection policies in place that reduce or eliminate those one-on-one situations.”