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Grand jury indicts ex-pastor on sex charges

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SMITHFIELD — A Johnston County grand jury handed down three true bills of indictment Monday against a former Four Oaks pastor on charges he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl six years ago. 

The alleged victim, now 19, reported the incidents to the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office in June. The Rev. Steve Morris was arrested at his Parkertown Road home near Four Oaks on July 5.

In the first indictment, Morris was indicted on three felony counts of statutory rape for allegedly engaging in a sexual act with the victim from June 1, 2013 to June 1, 2014. 

In the second indictment, Morris was indicted on two additional felony counts of statutory rape.

In the third indictment, Morris was indicted on three felony counts of taking indecent liberties with a child during the same time period. The indictment stated Morris “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did commit and attempt to commit a lewd and lascivious act upon the body of “ the victim.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Paul Jackson is prosecuting the case. Morris is represented by Smithfield defense attorney Bob Denning. His next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 5. Denning said Thursday he’s waiting on discovery evidence from the prosecution. Jackson was on vacation.

Morris is on house arrest. He is wearing an ankle monitor and is not permitted to contact the victim, the victim’s family or any witnesses in the case, according to the conditions of his release. Jackson has supplied Morris with a witness list. 

His bond was originally $2 ½ million, but Superior Court Judge Henry Willis reduced it to $250,000 on July 25.