Ronald Mitchell, a former 59-year-old pastor of a Montgomery County, Texas, church was sentenced to 75 years in prison on Tuesday after committing an unspeakable crime.
According to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, Mitchell was found guilty on five charges of sexual assault of a child, which in the state of Texas is deemed a second-degree felony. He was given 15 years for each charge, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Over a four-month period between 2015-2016, Mitchell sexually abused a 15-year-old parishioner who attended the Body of Christ Ministry, a church Mitchell led from his home. Prior to housing the congregation at his residence, the church existed in a separate storefront location.
The victim said that Mitchell shamed her into fear and silence by telling her that if she informed anyone of his actions she would be killed by God and it would fall on her shoulders that “the movement” was destroyed after a grueling hours-long testimony, the Chronicle reports.
The young girl in question suffered through months of silence, until she revealed to her mother that she was fondled and raped by Mitchell while she lived in his home.
After conducting an investigation, police discovered that at least seven families were housed in the residence, including children who attended home school. Police also discovered that Mitchell transported the girl over state lines, taking her to Las Vegas and other neighboring Texas cities like Galveston and San Antonio.
Several other church attendees corroborated the deep layers of control and victimization Mitchell resorted to, exerting controlling methods against his members, operating much like a cult, targeting families with financial hardship. One member said she was basically excommunicated for being “rebellious” and was forced to sleep outside in a truck.
“Today, jurors let it be known that when a child finds the courage to come forward – our community will carefully weigh the facts and convict even without DNA or scientific evidence,” Chief Prosecutor Nancy Hebert said in an interview with the Chronicle.