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Pastor faces child rape charges

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FOUR OAKS — A Johnston County pastor is accused of raping a 13-year-old girl over a year’s span that began in 2013.

Stephen Arthur Morris, 61, was arraigned Monday morning on multiple sex abuse charges in Johnston County Superior Court.

According to Johnston County Sheriff’s Office and Johnston County Superior Court records, Morris, pastor of Oliver’s Grove Baptist Church on U.S. 301 in Four Oaks, was arrested Friday on five counts of felony statutory rape/sex offense and five counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.

The charges stem from accusations that he engaged in sexual acts with a teenage girl between June 2013 and June 2014. At the time, the victim, who reported the incidents to authorities last month, was 13 years old. She is now 19.

The investigation by the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office began June 28 and led to Morris’ arrest at his home on Parkertown Road Friday afternoon, according to sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Caldwell.

Because the case involved a juvenile, authorities are not disclosing any other details about how the victim and her suspected abuser were acquainted.

During his court appearance Monday morning, Morris was assigned a court-appointed attorney and was told to appear in court again on July 25. He is currently being held in the Johnston County Detention Center under a $2 ½ million secured bond.

No one answered phone calls to the church requesting comment and the website listed for the church on its Facebook page was offline Monday afternoon.