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Highland Park children’s minister charged with sexual abusecomment (0)

February 13, 2014

Jeffrey Dale Eddie, children’s pastor and administrator of Highland Park Baptist Church, Muscle Shoals, was arrested Feb. 4. He was charged with two counts of child pornography, 31 counts of second-degree sodomy and three counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12. He had served on the Highland Park staff for 16 years.

Prior to his role at the Colbert-Lauderdale Baptist Association church, Eddie, 41, worked as a juvenile detention officer at the Tennessee Valley Juvenile Detention Facility in Tuscumbia, where news sources say there were “never any allegations” of abuse at the facility.

According to Eddie’s personal website, he served three other churches but his website was removed before press time. Two of the known churches are North Highland Baptist Church near Tuscumbia, and North Village Baptist Church, Florence. He was licensed to the ministry at North Village Baptist according to media reports.

He has two sons, and according to court documents, his wife, Melissa, filed for divorce Feb. 3. 

Eddie was picked up by the Muscle Shoals Police Department on Feb. 2 for questioning after the church’s worship arts pastor, Jeff Beech, found two pornographic photos of young males among files on Eddie’s laptop. 

Beech and Pastor Brett Pitman had asked to see Eddie’s electronic devices after a church member walked into Eddie’s office in late January and witnessed a child sitting on his lap with Eddie’s hands up the child’s shirt.  

When questioned by police Eddie said he was addicted to pornography and the images on his computer were downloaded from the Internet. The investigation was originally focused on child pornography but evidence quickly pointed to other issues, the police said.

Eddie waived his Miranda rights and reportedly admitted to sexually abusing members of Highland Park’s children’s ministry, so many that he could not recall them all. One victim said Eddie engaged in sexual acts with him at least once a month beginning in 2011 when the child was 11 years old.

At press time, Eddie was being held in the Colbert County Jail on a $1,030,000 bond.

The following is a statement from Highland Park:

“As a church, we are outraged, shocked and deeply saddened by the events that have unfolded over the last few days. First and foremost, we are striving to assist any children and families that have been affected by these events. The health and well being of these children is our No. 1 priority at this time.” 

“For years, Highland Park Baptist Church has invested in the Shoals community and we are committed to helping our entire community cope with this situation. Anyone with any information about this case should immediately contact the Muscle Shoals Police Department. 

“Any children or families in search of counseling may contact our church office for assistance. In closing, we want to personally thank every person that has come forward. They are heroes and should be treated as such.” 

Five counselors from Pathways Professional Counseling and Colbert-Lauderdale Association Disaster Relief chaplains are serving as resources to church members.

In a press conference Feb. 6, Muscle Shoals Police Chief Robert Evans said “additional charges are forthcoming.” 

A preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 18. 

(Compiled from media reports)

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