A Colleton County magistrate judge reduced two criminal sexual conduct charges and an assault charge against Ralph Stair. The evangelist for Overcomer Ministry still faces 8 charges – five of them are for sex crimes.
Judge Kenneth Campbell, Jr. changed two criminal sexual conduct first degree charges to third degree, and a first degree assault charge to third degree.
Ralph Stair didn’t appear for his preliminary hearing. His defense attorney and a special victims unit prosecutor asked questions to a detective with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office.
Sergeant Ed Marcurella referred to arrest warrants as he described graphic details of the alleged sexual encounters between Stair and six of his followers.
The sergeant revealed two parents of those victims face charges of unlawful conduct towards a child, but those charges haven’t been filed. He explained what a victim told investigators about stair’s comments to her after an alleged sexual encounter.
“He then said don’t be sad because you’ve made the man of God happy. And don’t say a word to anyone or I will get in trouble. This went on for over a year,” he said.
Sgt. Marcurella said SLED agents are reviewing recordings of prayer services where girls claimed Stair touched them inappropriately in front of other followers.
Some of the allegations date back to 1992. One of the six victims told Marcurella how Stair assaulted her at least 35 times. She said there weren’t any locked doors at the Overcomer Ministry commune near Canadys because Stair demanded access to everything.
He read the words of a young victim after she gave disturbing details of an alleged encounter with Stair.
“I was trying to push him away and said no. I don’t want to do this. Don’t make me do this. He said don’t you want to please and honor God? I said yes. I wanted to please God, but I don’t want to do this,” he told the court while reading from an arrest warrant.
After the hearing, Jack Swerling, Stair’s defense attorney, admitted the hearing revealed many details from the ministry’s followers who believe their leader hurt them.
“There’s a lot of information, a lot to digest,” he said. Swerling explained his client insists he didn’t do anything wrong.
Hunter Swanson, a special victims unit prosecutor for the 14th Judicial Circuit, said Stair will probably return to court after he’s indicted. But she wasn’t sure when that would happen.