JAY, Okla. — A former Southern Baptist pastor in Oklahoma has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after confessing to sexual abuse of a 15-year-old girl who attended his church.
Joshua Spires, 28, now of Odessa, Texas, pleaded guilty Oct. 13 to 10 counts of lewd molestation that occurred while he was senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jay, Okla.
Delaware County Judge Alicia Littlefield sentenced Spires to a 20-year prison sentence with 10 years suspended on each count to be served concurrently, meaning he would be eligible for parole in 8 1/2 years. If convicted by a jury, he could have been sentenced to up to 200 years in prison — the full 20 years for each count.
Spires was also fined $10,000 for victim’s compensation under a 2005 law providing financial assistance to victims who suffer physical or psychological injury as a result of a criminal act. Media reports said the victim’s family was consulted about the plea agreement.
Court documents said Spires sexually assaulted the girl, once a member of his youth group, every Sunday for a year at the church. The acts took place about an hour before services began, either on his desk or a couch in the church office.
Both Spires, who was married, and the girl said their relationship was consensual, but Oklahoma law states that a 15-year-old cannot consent to a sexual relationship.
The girl reportedly told police that Spires began to tell her that he loved her when she was in seventh grade and he was her youth pastor. After she broke off the relationship last November to date a high-school student, Spires began calling and sending her text messages threatening to commit suicide if she did not take him back. The victim said Spires’ obsession escalated into threats of harm against her and her boyfriend.
Spires, a native Texan who moved to Oklahoma in 2002, told the Tulsa World in August that he was pastor at First Baptist Church for four years until he was asked to leave July 31 after his conduct came to light.
“My goal is not to disgrace the church and not cause my family or the other family any harm,” Spires told the newspaper. “I don’t know how the church found out. I wish it had never happened.”
Spires added that he was deeply remorseful for hurting his wife and two small children.
The victim and her mother reportedly called police Aug. 3, and Spires was arrested Aug. 25. Spires confessed at the time that he had an “inappropriate, unlawful sexual relationship.”
A Southern Baptist Convention database still lists Spires as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Jay, a 140-member congregation founded in 1917.
A church web site also still listed him as pastor as of Oct. 26.