Benton Harbor pastor facing multiple criminal sexual conduct charges

NOW: Benton Harbor pastor facing multiple criminal sexual conduct charges

ST. JOSEPH, Mi. -- Leroy Lane Jr. has been a pastor in Benton Harbor for over twenty years, and preached at Straight Gate Pentecostal Power Church-- the congregation on Pipestone Street-- now re-named New Birth Apostolic Church after cutting all ties with Pastor Lane when several allegations were made against him preying on teenage girls from his church.

Lane refused to say anything after his hearing on multiple criminal sexual conduct charges was postponed Tuesday at the Berrien County Courthouse. 

According to court documents obtained by ABC57, Pastor Lane paid for an apartment for a teenage girl at this church whose family was struggling financially, and in 2018, he allegedly entered the apartment twice-- without her knowledge-- and sexually assaulting her, one time telling her that he wanted to do that for years after having intercourse with her, and another time he told her he came in to "tuck her in for the night," before another assault. 

Lane is also accused of inappropriately touching a thirteen-year old girl in 2020-- picking her up against her will and putting her on his lap, then touching her inner thigh and backside. 

Police began investigating Lane Jr. after the thirteen-year old came forward, though he denies the assaults and has claimed that any prior sexual encounters were consensual.

But Deacon Curtis Sherrod, who worked at Straight Gate Pentecostal with Pastor Lane for sixteen years, called him a predator. 

“He utilized and weaponized the pulpit in order to keep people silent and to pump fear into people instead of giving them the ability to be free as they should be," said Sherrod. 

He added that two of the victims are people close to him-- and said that Lane has harmed far more than just the two girls. 

“There are victims that are, from what I understand, that cannot be found, that I watched grow up in the church, that he took advantage of," he said. "There are two, that while they may not be counted in the case as victims, two of them are my nieces, and as a family we were able to clearly see that he was plotting to head in the direction of grooming them in some way.”

After being ousted from Straight Gate, Lane now preaches at Rhema Word Ministries on Napier Avenue.

I knocked on the church doors to see if anyone there knew of the allegations, though no one answered. 

“He just continues to propagate," Sherrod said. "I would like to see that no one deal with or have the experience of what me and my peers, who were a tight-knit spiritual family at Straight Gate Pentecostal Power, I don’t want to see anyone go through that.”

Sherrod added that others need to come forward to prevent any other girls from becoming a victim. 

“If we sit silent, he’ll only do it again," he said. "He’s proven that. If someone actually stands up and says something—and it’s not just me—but someone has to do something. And if it’s me, so be it.”

Leroy Lane Jr's next court date is set for May 11. 

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