March 12 – The pastor of Thompson United Methodist Church is indicted on charges of sexually abusing minors.
A Geauga County grand jury indicted Dennis W. Laferty on seven counts. That announcement was made March 10 in a press release issued jointly by Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz and Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand.
Laferty, 37, who lives in Thompson Township, was charged following an investigation by sheriff’s and prosecutor’s office detectives into allegations of sexual assault against minors, the press release said.
The indictment charges Lafferty with five third-degree felonies of sexual battery; a third-degree felony count of gross sexual imposition; and a third-degree felony count of sexual imposition.
Each third-degree felony in the charge carries a maximum prison sentence of five years, the press release said.
A warrant was issued for Laferty’s arrest and he was apprehended in Crawford County on the evening of March 10. He will eventually be charged by Geauga County Common Pleas Judge David Ondrey, Flaiz stated in the press release.
Laferty has been pastor of Thompson United Methodist Church, located at 6758 Madison Road, since July 1, 2018, according to umdata.org, an online directory of United Methodist churches, pastors, leadership, conferences and other entities.
According to the indictment, the charges against Laferty arose from conduct alleged to have occurred between November 30, 2019 and January 30, 2023.
The press release stated that law enforcement believes there may be additional victims allegedly harmed by Laferty.
“Sheriff Hildenbrand is asking anyone with information regarding this investigation to call the Geauga County Department of Job and Family Services at 440-285-9141,” the press release said.
Flaiz stated that he could not comment further on the matter due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.
Thompson United Methodist Church stated in a March 11 Facebook post that Laferty has been suspended as pastor “to ensure the protection of our congregation and community.” Church added that it considers the case against Laferty a very serious matter and “allows appropriate authorities to take action”.
“Please know that at Thompson United Methodist Church, we do not condone harm of any kind to anyone and we care for all of our members,” the Facebook post read.