A member of a small church in Covington, Tennessee, who was also reported to be the driver of the church's bus, was arrested and charged with raping a 10-year-old girl inside the church's basement.
In an affidavit cited by FOX 13, Covington Police allege that 55-year-old Central Christian Church driver Edwin Burgess performed a sexual act on the 10-year-old girl and forced her to touch him inappropriately.
A warrant was issued for Edwin Burgess' arrest on Wednesday afternoon. Burgess, 55, lives in Covington and was a bus driver for the Central Christian Church.
Police say a mother called the police department after her 9-year-old daughter told her, "I need to tell you something."
The 9-year-old girl, who was not physically assaulted, said Burgess' alleged victim told her what happened.
Police who investigated the story said the 10-year-old told them Burgess asked her and another girl to go to the bathroom at Central Christian Church and tried to get them to play truth or dare.
"No, because my mother would not like that," the girl replied.
Burgess allegedly responded, "No one will tell, plus the bus windows are dark so no one will see."
After the truth or dare, Burgess was allegedly alone in the church basement with a second 10-year-old victim who told police he started raping her around New Years 2017. She said the last time he raped her was about June 18 after church.
Tom Ralstin, Central Christian Church's pastor, clarified in an interview with The Christian Post Friday that while Burgess is a longtime church member he wasn't an employee.
"He and his family have attended here. I've been here about five years. That's all I know. His parents attended here. I have no idea how long they have been a part of the church. But we'll let this go through the courts," he said.
"We are very disappointed of course but we had no idea that anything like this could even be possible," he noted. "It's very disappointing, we feel for any of the families involved. We have no knowledge of the families that are involved yet. It's never been revealed and probably could never be revealed. We feel bad for them and wish them grace and healing and we'll see how it goes through the courts."
He said congregants of his church, which averages about 65-70 worshipers weekly, have been expressing concern and they will be gathering for the first time since the news broke on Sunday. Prior to the recent allegations, Ralstin said there had never been any complaints about Burgess.
He cautioned the public against convicting Burgess before he has his day in court and directed further questions about the case to the church's lawyer.
"I would tell everybody, I know that the assumption is guilty until proven innocent in cases like this but maybe only us without sin should cast stones," he said.
Jere Mason, Burgess' attorney, insisted in a statement that his client is innocent and would be fighting the allegations "vigorously."
"Edwin Burgess was extremely surprised and deeply saddened to learn of these charges being levied against him. He strongly maintains his innocence and plans to vigorously fight these charges in a court of law. Due to the type of charges levied against him it is hard for the public to remember that Edwin is innocent unless proven guilty," Mason said.
"In today's day and age with the advent of social media a person charged with these crimes is often convicted in the court of public opinion before all the facts of the case are brought to light. The attorneys of Gray Huffman Butler stand ready to seek justice for Edwin in this difficult time."