Former youth pastor jailed in segregation after conviction

Former pastor convicted on all counts

TIPTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - A former Mid-South youth pastor was found guilty on all counts in the sex abuse of an under-aged boy.

It took a Tipton County jury only an hour and a half to deliberate.

The former pastor was found guilty on more than 20 counts involving child sex abuse. As each guilty verdict was read, friends and family of the victims mouthed, “yes.”

Former youth pastor found guilty of rape, child sexual abuse

"A Tipton County grand jury sent a very clear message to the community that child sexual abuse will not be tolerated in Tipton County,” said Mark Davidson, district attorney.

Ronnie Gorton put his head down as the verdicts were read.

The former pastor of Awakening Church in Atoka was found guilty on counts of exploitation of a minor, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, furnishing alcohol to minors, sexual battery by an authority figure, statutory rape and continual abuse of a child.

"It's an emotional one. I'm sure the jurors have been worn out by this. We obviously are disappointed but respect their decision,” said Blake Ballin, Gorton’s attorney.

Earlier in the day, Ronnie Gorton took the stand, testifying for two hours.

His attorney, Blake Ballin, asked him if he molested the victim. Gorton said, “absolutely not.”

Ballin asked why he slept in the victim's bed with him. Gorton said the victim was in a dark place, talking about suicide after his mother was arrested and he wanted Gorton near him.

Assistant DA Walt Freeland called the upstairs bedroom in the house Gorton shared with his now ex-wife and the victim a “chamber of horrors.”

Gorton did admit to providing alcohol to the victim and other teenagers. He testified that he did not know why the victims made the accusations of sexual abuse.

Freeland told jurors Gorton was a "ravenous wolf in sheep's clothing. As the shepherd of a flock, he didn't pray for the flock, he preyed on the flock."

In an earlier testimony, a friend of Ronnie Gorton's testified he considered suicide after the victim went to police.

Gorton has been placed in segregation in the Tipton County jail where he will be mentally evaluated.

A new mugshot of Gorton shows him in what is called an anti-suicide smock that is tear-resistant. It’s designed to prevent an individual from forming a noose with the garment to commit suicide.

Ronnie Gorton is scheduled to be sentenced at the beginning of November.

The DA says he will ask the judge to rule the sentences be served consecutively.

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