TOLEDO, Ohio — A letter from a teenager who was used for sex for more than two years by a ring of three “pastors” was read aloud in court on Friday as two of them faced sentencing on sex trafficking charges.
“To my abusers, I say thank you because a broken girl would have stayed lost, but not me,” the unidentified victim wrote, as reported by The Toledo Blade. “I found Christ. I spoke my truth with Him and held my head high. No one can take from me because I endure.”
She chastised the men as manipulating young women despite knowing what the Bible says and preaching it to others.
“You guys taught the word, and you still abused and manipulated,” the now 19-year-old stated. “I forgive you for my own sake because I am a true Christ follower and believer. You know what you’ve done, [and] you knew the impact it would have, reasons you tried to keep it a secret. For every wrong action in life comes a consequence — even the Bible says it.”
As previously reported, Anthony Haynes, who oversees Greater Life Christian Center, along with Cordell Jenkins of Abundant Life Ministries, both of Toledo, were arrested in 2017 after the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) busted them for enticing a minor “less than eighteen years old to engage in commercial sex acts.”
According to official documents, Hayes was accused of engaging in repeated sexual relations with the teenager beginning in 2014. She had moved in with his family after her mother wasn’t able to sufficiently care for her, and Hayes reportedly presented her before the congregation and declared that he would protect her as a father as she had been sexually abused in the past.
However, “he coerced [the teen] into continued secrecy by implying revealing the sexual activity between them would ruin his family and church,” the federal complaint read.
Hayes soon introduced the girl to other men, including Jenkins, who was accused of having sexual relations with the teenager in his office at Abundant Life Ministries.
A local Red Roof Inn additionally confirmed that Jenkins rented a room with the teenager twice, including one time when the girl says that he asked her to bring a friend. She and her friend were paid for the encounters.
According to local television station WNWO, investigators looked through the teenager’s phone and discovered that she had been encouraged to send photographs and videos of herself, some without her clothes on. It was likewise found that some of the sexual encounters had been recorded.
The Toledo Blade reports that Jenkins defended himself on Friday by asserting that he thought the girl and her friend were adults.
“There is never a time that I would set out intentionally, deliberately, or desire ever to have any type of relationship other than to love and nurture a minor. Ever. Ever, your Honor,” he said.
Jenkins claimed that it was the stresses of ministry life that caused him to engage in adultery, which then destroyed his marriage and home. He apologized and stated that he never sought to cause anyone harm or pain.
However, U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary did not believe Jenkins’ assertions that he didn’t know the females were still minors.
“How dare you come in here today at this late stage in the case and continue to defend yourself in front of everyone in front of this courtroom,” he said. “I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. Not for a moment.”
Jenkins was sentenced to life in prison.
Haynes is scheduled to be sentenced next month, and a third minister involved, Keith Butler of Kingdom Encounter Family Worship Center in Detroit, Michigan, was sentenced on Friday to 17 1/2 years behind bars.
Numbers 32:23 says, “[B]e sure your sin will find you out.”