The fall of man 

First Baptist Church of Benton music minister David Pierce led a secret life for two decades. Then it all unraveled.

click to enlarge FALLEN: David Pierce is led from the courthouse after entering a guilty plea.
  • FALLEN: David Pierce is led from the courthouse after entering a guilty plea.

If you need a reason why music minister David Pierce was able to do what he did for so long ? to sexually victimize scores of boys at the First Baptist Church of Benton over the past 20 years or more ? you probably need to look no further than the inch-thick stack of letters that flooded into the Saline County prosecuting attorney's office in the days and weeks after his arrest last April. The letters urging leniency for Pierce, some from Benton's most powerful citizens, kept coming in even after he had been booked on 54 counts of sexual indecency with a child; even after it started to seep out that dozens might be involved; even after the rumors about his crimes spread through the city like brushfire.

Reading those pleas on his behalf, it quickly becomes clear that Pierce was trusted completely by a great many people. It also becomes clear that comprehension of his crimes by those who knew and loved him has only come grudgingly, if at all.

There are a few letters in that stack encouraging Saline County Prosecutor Ken Casady to throw the book at Pierce. Most beg for probation, saying that ? no matter what the truth of the allegations ? stripping Pierce's livelihood and reputation from him was punishment enough. They cite his devotion to the congregation, his age, his diabetes, the danger to child molesters in prison, and his failing health. The writers speak of times when Pierce ministered to their dying relatives, sang at their weddings and planned their loved ones' funerals. A pastor at a large Little Rock congregation, after acknowledging that Pierce's crimes were “sick, twisted and perverted,” asked that Pierce receive probation, or ? in the event he was sent to jail ? be allowed to serve his sentence at a minimum security prison or a treatment facility for sex offenders.

Despite these calls for leniency, 56-year-old David Pierce sits behind bars at this writing, waiting for transfer to the Arkansas Department of Correction. The church, meanwhile, faced with the possibility of civil litigation, has largely closed ranks. Pastor Rick Grant provided brief written statements in response to questions posed by the Arkansas Times. But representatives of the church declined  to be interviewed about the case. Unless otherwise noted, the quotes attributed to church officials and the victim known as “Kurt” in this story are all taken from interviews conducted by the Saline County sheriff's office during the investigation.  For many of the boys who were caught in Pierce's strange web of voyeurism, control and lust, his arrest and conviction still hasn't brought them peace. 

 

 

 No one but Pierce knows long it had really been going on, but for First Baptist Church as an institution, it began in late October 2008. One night after Sunday evening services, Senior Pastor Rick Grant was approached by the father of a young man we'll call Robert. By then in his early 30s, Robert had once been an energetic member of FBC's 130-strong youth choir, known as Pure Energy. During his time with the choir, Robert had been closely mentored by the church's associate pastor of music, David Pierce. That night after services, Robert's father told Grant that there was more to that relationship than prayer.

Robert's father told the pastor that while talking to Robert about some recent marital troubles, his son had confided that “something wasn't right” with his once-close relationship with Pierce. While the father wouldn't elaborate to Grant, he urged the pastor to look into it. Grant told him that the charges were “a big deal” and urged him to meet with him again soon to discuss it further.

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