New Charges Filed Against Pastor Accused of Child Molestation on Commune

New charges were filed against a pastor on Monday amid the expansion of an investigation into allegations that leaders of two reclusive church communes sexually abused girls.

George Otis Johnston, 63, was charged with nine counts of felony statutory sodomy on suspicion of molesting a girl from 1997 to 2004, starting when she was less than 12 years old.

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Johnston's lawyer, who previously has declined to talk to reporters, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Monday. Johnston has pleaded not guilty to nine other charges of molesting a girl from his church from the time she was 8 years old until she was 16.

An arrest warrant was issued for the new counts, and bond was set at $100,000.

The new counts arose from an interview with a woman conducted by Newton County sheriff's investigators since the first charges were filed against Johnston on Aug. 22. The woman, who is now 20 years old, told investigators that Johnston touched her sexually when he was supposed to be tutoring her from February 1997 to December 2004, according to a probable cause statement.

The woman told investigators that "when Johnston would touch her, he would tell her that it wouldn't make her impure, that it would make her holy and she would remain as pure as a virgin, even after she married," the probable cause statement said.

Johnston is one of five people charged with sexually abusing girls at two affiliated church compounds in neighboring Newton and McDonald counties. All five people have pleaded not guilty and are free on bond.

Also charged are Johnson's nephew, the Rev. Raymond Lambert, 51; Lambert's wife, Patty Lambert, 49; and her brothers Paul Epling, 53, and Tom Epling, 51.

Johnston is the pastor of Grandview Valley Baptist Church North, whose members live on a 10-acre property in rural Granby. That church is an offshoot of an older and larger community led by Lambert, the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, a 100-acre farm in rural eastern McDonald County.