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#ChurchToo Investigations

Three Arrested in Connection with Alleged Abuse at Jacksonville Church

Sheriffs raided a Florida church March 9 and arrested its pastor in connection with child sexual abuse charges while concurrently arresting two former church leaders in Oklahoma in connection with the case.

Paul Brady Dyal, the 78-year-old pastor of Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ, was arrested and charged with capital sexual battery on a child 11 or younger. He was being held without bail. 

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Special Assault Unit said in a Facebook post it received a tip in September 2020 regarding possible sexual abuse occurring at the church. An investigation revealed sexual and physical abuse of minors spanning a period of more than 30 years, they said.

Also being held in conjunction with the case are Jerome Teschendorf, 68, who was arrested in Newalla, Oklahoma, and Vernon Williamson, 85, who was arrested in Ardmore, Oklahoma—both of them were charged with capital sexual battery.

The Sheriff’s Office said it identified and spoke with “numerous” victims and witnesses throughout the course of the investigation, and that investigators believe additional suspects are involved in the crimes.

Eight alleged victims came forward for a press conference March 14 sharing their stories of mental, emotional, and financial abuse at the church, saying they were subjected to cult-like rules about their appearance and behavior. The women, represented by attorney Cynthia Crawford, shared stories that included being sexually molested as minors, beaten with paddles, “courted” by men within the church who were twice their age, and being isolated from the outside world. 

“Our clients provided information to law enforcement which revealed both long-term sexual and physical abuse of minors in the church spanning a period of over forty years,” Crawford said in a statement. “Many of the victims have been diminished, extorted and shut up. We rest easier now that their voices have been heard. We still need more information and are seeking more stories.”

The investigation was conducted in partnership with the U.S. Marshals, State Attorney’s Office, and the Florida Department of Children and Families.

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.