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Panola County pastor charged with multiple counts of molesting children

Updated: Aug. 18, 2020 at 11:23 PM CDT
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PANOLA COUNTY, Miss. (WMC) - A Mississippi pastor is facing charges for allegedly molesting children.

Willie Forrest is pastor of Springhill Pope Missionary Baptist in Panola County.

Church members tell us they are shocked by the allegations. They say they haven’t heard any rumors or talk about sexual impropriety at the church.

“It’s very shocking,” said Minnie Doyle, church member.

Forrest has served as pastor at the church for 14 years.

“He had a great church,” said Doyle. “You’d never think anything like that was going on.”

Forrest is charged with three counts of molesting children under the age of 15.

District Attorney John Champion said the alleged crimes happened at the church and Forrest’s home in Coldwater where he was arrested Monday.

Champion would not reveal anything else about the allegations but said the case is still under investigation.

No one answered the door at Forrest’s home Tuesday afternoon and neighbors didn’t have much to say.

Springhill Pope Missionary Baptist Church is on a hill in the main part of the community of Pope, which has a population of about 200 people.

The church is close to an elementary school.

“I don’t like it,” said Pope resident Caroline Reddick. “It is too close to the school, and how long has it been going on? How long has he been there? That’s what I’m saying. That’s very bad.”

Word of Forrest’s arrest has spread around Pope. One woman in a convenience store said she was shocked. She said she didn’t know the pastor personally but he would visit the store occasionally and he seemed nice.

Forrest is in the Tate County Jail.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about he case to call Coldwater Police or the Panola County Sheriff’s Office.

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