NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A 33-year-old evangelist who spoke for years at Southern Baptist youth gatherings is being investigated in three states for video voyeurism.
The evangelist, Sammy Nuckolls, was indicted in February in Mississippi on 13 counts of video voyeurism for filming women in private situations without their consent. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years and will require Nuckolls to register as a sex offender. He has pleaded not guilty to the Mississippi charges.
According to sources familiar with Nuckolls’ speaking schedule, he was being scheduled by an estimated 100 churches or groups per year.
Among those that have used Nuckolls were LifeWay Christian Resources’ student camps, which terminated its relationship with Nuckolls when the charges were revealed last fall.
Nuckolls originally was hired to serve in the role of a camp pastor from 2003-06. In 2007 his role changed to a contract speaker at general assemblies and large gatherings. LifeWay conducts both reference and criminal background checks for those speaking at student camps, an April 4 statement from LifeWay noted.
“Police investigators in Mississippi have reported to LifeWay there was no evidence victims were filmed at any LifeWay events,” LifeWay said in its statement. “However, Mark Kimball, assistant chief of police of the Olive Branch, Mississippi, Police Department, has requested those who may be victims to contact him at (662) 892-9400.”
Last October, Nuckolls was staying in the home of a youth minister for a church in Arkansas where he had been invited to speak. After Nuckolls emerged from the family’s bathroom, the youth minister’s wife went in and eventually noticed several of his items lying around, including his shaving kit, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram April 2.
The woman saw what appeared to be an oversized pen standing upright inside the shaving kit on the counter, and she continued in the bathroom. Later, when the bathroom was unoccupied, Nuckolls returned to retrieve his belongings, the newspaper said, citing a police report.
Once Nuckolls and the youth minister had left the house, the woman found the pen in Nuckolls’ room, took the top off and discovered a flash drive. She plugged it into her computer and saw a video of herself undressing, the Star-Telegram said. She called police, and when Nuckolls returned, he was arrested.
At the time, Nuckolls admitted to videotaping the woman without her consent and also admitted to two other instances of using a hidden camera in Olive Branch, Miss., the police report said. A police chief in Gosnell, Ark., searched Nuckolls’ computer and found several more videos dating to 2007.
A Mississippi prosecutor said the women there were filmed in Nuckolls’ home and were his friends or acquaintances.
According to an Internet search, among the places Nuckolls spoke were the Baptist Campus Ministries at the University of Alabama in November 2009, Blue Mountain College in Virginia in August 2011 and churches in several states.
A nondenominational church in Southlake, Texas, where Nuckolls spoke to youth about a half-dozen times in three years, said he passed a required background check there, according to the Star-Telegram. Officials in Seymour, Texas, also are investigating Nuckolls for video voyeurism.
Bill Cash, one of Nuckolls’ neighbors in Olive Branch, Miss., told the local ABC affiliate last fall he was “totally shocked” when the charges were revealed.
“I would have never thought it,” Cash said. “I would have never even began to think it. He was always a real nice guy.”
Another neighbor, Raymond Clower, was “definitely surprised and shocked.”
“You don’t expect someone who lives next door, seems so nice, to be caught up in something like this,” Clower told the Memphis, Tenn., Fox affiliate.
Nuckolls is married, and neighbors said he and his wife adopted a baby last year.
A trial for Nuckolls in Mississippi is scheduled to begin June 25.
“Based on the length of time this went on, the sophistication of his acts, it was clearly not accidental,” Steven Jubera, a prosecutor in Mississippi, said, according to the Associated Press. “We intend to prosecute this aggressively.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)