Man sentenced for inappropriately hugging, touching girls at church

Pastor's son awaiting trial on child sexual battery charges

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison and 10 years of probation for sexually abusing children at a local church.

Darrell Moore, 47, pleaded guilty to lewd and lascivious conduct on two girls who were 12 at the time of the incidents. The girls say he hugged and touched them inappropriately at Greater Refuge Temple off Lem Turner Road, the church they grew up in.

Moore was facing up to 15 years in prison. Defense attorneys were seeking a sentence of two years -- time Moore has already served in jail.

The judge said based on what happened, where it happened and Moore's background, the right sentence was somewhere in the middle.

Moore showed little emotion as the judge sentenced him.

"For those two little girls at the time, that church should have been for them what the church's name proclaims to the world. That should have been their refuge," Judge Adrian Soud said.

When investigators first asked Moore if he was aroused when he was hugging and touching the girls, Moore responded, "It's possible."

That answer played a big part in his sentence.

"The arousal and the excitement that are acknowledged through the course of the defendant's interview is unavoidable, irrefutable evidence," Soud said.

Despite that evidence, Soud said Moore's military and church service, clean criminal history, and the fact that there was no skin to skin contact kept him from serving the full 15-year sentence.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Paul Groover
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Paul Groover

Moore is one of two men charged with sexually abusing children at the church. Moore is the pastor's son-in-law, and the other man charged is the pastor's son, Paul Groover (pictured, right). He is currently waiting to go to trial. So far there is no plea deal, and he is facing three counts of sexual battery.

Church members filled the courtroom Thursday, many of whom testified on Moore's behalf during sentencing. The victims say they have been ostracized by the church, even their own families.

Their attorney says they are just happy their voices were heard.

"The girls felt a lot of peace by just simply being believed after two years of not being believed by their church, but then having to come to a court of law to be believed and to get justice," Assistant State Attorney Jessica Villella said.

No church members in attendance wanted to comment after the sentencing, neither did Moore's attorney.

As for an appeal, he said that has yet to be determined.