Stair arrested on multiple charges | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | December 21, 2017 5:00 am
Last Updated: December 20, 2017 at 1:22 pm
Colleton County Sheriff’s Office personnel arrived at the Overcomer Ministry at 12680 Augusta Highway early on the morning of Dec. 18 to take Ralph G. Stair, the leader of the religious compound, into custody on eight criminal charges.
Lt. Tyger Benton, public information officer of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office said a large contingent of law enforcement officers arrived at the church compound Dec. 18 at approximately 7:30 a.m. to take Stair, 84, into custody.
The charges, all filed by the sheriff’s office investigators, include three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and single counts of assault with the intent to commit criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, second-degree assault, first-degree burglary, and third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
Stair was taken into custody without incident and was transported to the Colleton County Detention Center on the charges. A few hours later, Stair appeared for a bond hearing on the charges in magistrate court.
After the prosecutor and Stair’s attorney met for a sidebar with the magistrate, Stair’s attorney waived the bond hearing and Stair was returned to his cell.
The law enforcement personnel to be involved in the arrest and search of the Overcomers Ministry compound gathered at the rest stop on I-95 in Dorchester County.
When all of the estimated 30 law enforcement vehicles involved were gathered, two Colleton County Sheriff’s Office cruisers activated their emergency lights and entered the interstate to block both southbound lanes to allow the convoy of law enforcement vehicles to enter the roadway.
A southbound driver towing a trailer was unable to stop his vehicle in time and crashed into the rear of one of the cruisers.
The deputy in the hit cruiser was transported to Colleton Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries, and the S.C. Highway Patrol arrived to investigate the crash.
The sheriff’s office personnel arriving at the compound were joined by agents of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations.
Thom Berry, public information officer for SLED, said the state agents and their federal counterparts were at the Overcomer Ministry armed with a search warrant for the compound.
Berry said the search was part of an active and on-going investigation and the investigation work by SLED is continuing. He explained, “We will go where it leads us.”
Benton said because the investigation is on-going, the sheriff’s office, SLED and the federal agencies will not provide any additional information.
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation of Stair in early October and a few days later, requested SLED’s assistance in that investigation. As the investigation continued, FBI and Homeland Security agents joined the probe.
The local investigation was started after the sheriff’s office learned of two videos that showed up on the You Tube website on Sept. 30.
One video focused on a young woman who alleged she was targeted by Stair’s sexual advances while she was at the Augusta Highway compound.
The second video, a collection of clips of Stair’s church services, allegedly showed him suggestively touching underage females during church services.
Monday’s allegations against Stair based on the video are not the first time he has been accused of inappropriate contact with an underage female.
Stair appeared in Colleton County General Sessions Court in November of 2004, approximately two years after being charged with improperly touching two of his young female church members.
In that court appearance, Stair, as part of a plea agreement, pled guilty to two reduced charges — assault and battery — and was given two 30-day jail terms with credit for time already spent in custody.
Explanation of charges
First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct
Between the early part of April 2017 and the end of May 2017, a victim alleges that Stair consistently harassed her for ***. On one occasion, when she was in the radio room, he reportedly touched her vaginal area over her clothes, allegedly suggesting that she might have to leave the compound if she did not comply with his requests. She then reportedly had *** with Stair.
First-degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, First-Degree Burglary
In January of 1998, Stair allegedly entered a female victim’s residence without her permission and sexually assaulted her. In interviews with investigators, the woman alleged that Stair sexually assaulted her 35 or more times between January 1998 and June of 1999.
Second-Degree Assault and Battery
In July of 2016, Stair called for a female victim to approach him. He then allegedly placed his hand inside her shirt and began to massage her breast, against her will and without her permission.
First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and Kidnapping
Around June 2017, Stair took a juvenile female to his radio room. When she attempted to leave the radio room, Stair allegedly grabbed the victim from behind and held her against her will. At one point, he allegedly rubbed her vaginal area through her clothes and asked her, “Do you feel good? I feel good.”
Third-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor
On June 3, 2017, Stair was preaching to his congregation when he asked a juvenile female victim to approach him on two occasions.
On the first occasion, Stair reportedly asked her age as part of their conversation. The victim’s name and age were redacted from the arrest affidavit.
A few minutes later, he asked the girl to return to him.
He allegedly turned her around and fondled her right breast. He had her return to her seat and allegedly made the statement that he was going to “keep touching them so no one else could touch them.”
First-Degree Assault with Intent to Commit Criminal Sexual Conduct
In the winter of 1992, Stair reported called the female victim to his office to sign the paperwork needed to sell her vehicle. Stair allegedly pushed her against his desk and groped her, placing his hand underneath her shirt, forcibly pulling her panties down and attempted to pull his pants down.
She reportedly told investigators she thought she was about to be raped and fought him off.