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Back to Index Published on 06/14/02    
Minister sought on child-sex counts


Advocate staff writers

A Baker minister accused of molesting four children is being sought after failing to surrender to East Baton Rouge sheriff's officials Thursday.

Benny McFarland, 41, 9240 Pettit Road, Baker, may be "holed up," Sheriff's Col. Mike Barnett said.

"He's very aware of the indictment," Barnett said. "We'd like to get him in custody."

An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury indicted McFarland on Wednesday on four counts of sexual battery, two counts of oral sexual battery, four counts of molestation of a juvenile, four counts of aggravated crime against nature and two counts of second-degree kidnapping.

The indictment accuses McFarland of performing sex acts with four children from 1990 through 1998. The children ranged in age from 8 to 16.

Prosecutor Kim Brooks said McFarland initially met the children while working as a minister at Hightime Evangelistic Center in Baker.

He didn't begin allegedly molesting two of the victims until he became reacquainted with them at Prescott Middle School, where he taught science, she said.

McFarland allegedly sexually abused the children at his home, in a school closet at Prescott, the church and on out-of-town trips, Brooks said.

Some of the victims came from single-parent homes and were looking for a father figure, she said.

"He's very good at befriending people and telling them God loves him, God knows what he's doing, this is OK," Brooks said.

McFarland taught science at Prescott Middle School from October 1987 through May 1991, when he resigned for personal reasons, said Meg Casper, spokeswoman for the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.

He was arrested in 2000 after he was accused of improperly touching a boy in his church office between 1993 and 1999.

Another arrest followed a month later. In that case, a 22-year-old man accused McFarland of molesting him when he was a sixth-grade student in McFarland's science class at Prescott.

The molestation allegedly escalated when the victim was 16, a police warrant said.

The indictment includes the two victims from the 2000 arrests, Brooks said.

She didn't get the McFarland case until this year.

Some of the allegations against McFarland date back 20 years, she said.

When McFarland failed to surrender as expected Thursday, sheriff's deputies began searching for him at his home and other places he has been known to frequent, Barnett said.

Late Thursday, Robert Randolph, an attorney for McFarland, issued the following statement about his client:

"I became aware of the new charges yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon. I went about to prepare my client to answer to the new charges."

"He will turn himself in to a East Baton Rouge sheriff's substation tomorrow (Friday). He's not a fugitive. ... There were some concerns he had to address before coming in.

"If there was any misunderstanding, it was not Mr. McFarland's fault. The 16 charges were part and parcel of the initial charge against Mr. McFarland (on July 1). We felt very comfortable with our case and the new indictment doesn't change that."

We just have to go back and prepare on the new charges."

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