A lay pastor who ran a failed bid to unseat U.S. House of Representatives incumbent Jim Matheson in 2006 made an initial appearance in 5th District Court on Thursday on charges of rape and sexual abuse of a child.
Kris Lounsbury, age 62, of St. George is charged with two counts of rape, two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and two counts of forcible sexual abuse.
Lounsbury ran for the 2nd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives but was defeated by State Representative LaVar Christensen for the Republican nomination to oppose Matheson.
Lounsbury was also the founding pastor of Living Word Christian Fellowship in St. George. He resigned his position as pastor about a year and a half ago, said current pastor John Sullivan.
Lounsbury then became an elder of the church, but stepped down from that position about four weeks ago as a consequence of the allegations, Sullivan said.
"It's a situation that he has repented before the congregation about," Sullivan said.
Sullivan also said Lounsbury is engaged in ongoing counseling with Sullivan and the pastor of another fellowship.
St. George Police Department Officer James Schafer said a complaint was submitted to the Washington County Attorney's Office following allegations on June 19 that three girls were abused by Lounsbury.
"It looks like the charges were enhanced because the suspect was in a position of special trust, which means he was either a relative or in (another) position of special trust with the victim," Schafer said.
A woman who identified herself as the mother of the alleged victims said she confronted Lounsbury after her 15-year-old daughter reported numerous cases of abuse.
The woman said her other daughters told her similar stories and that their friends also said Lounsbury had molested them.
"When my daughter first told me I was skeptical, then when I was talking to my other daughters and they were saying the same thing I was just blown away," the woman said. The Spectrum is not identifying the woman because of her relationship to the alleged victims.
"My main concern is that he is prosecuted correctly and that if there are any more victims out there, that they come forward," she said.
Lounsbury's attorney, Larry Meyers, said the case is still in the early stages.
"We haven't got the discovery yet. Once we get that we'll talk to the prosecutor," Meyers said.
Discovery is the process by which attorneys review evidence gathered to back up the charges against a suspect.
Meyers asked Judge G. Rand Beacham on Thursday to recall a warrant issued against Lounsbury and to allow him to remain out of jail on his own recognizance with an order not to contact the alleged victims, in accordance with an agreement between the defense and the prosecutor for the case.
Meyers said Lounsbury is well known in the community and should not be considered a flight risk.
Beacham accepted the arrangement and set a roll call hearing for Aug. 10.