ORANGE PARK, Fla. – William Henry Randall, the retired pastor of an Orange Park church, was arrested early Friday morning at his Fleming Island home and charged with sexual battery on a child.
Randall, 73, of St. Simon Baptist Church, was released from the Clay County jail after posting $25,000 bond on a felony custodial sexual battery charge.
According to Randall's arrest warrant, the victim came forward in September 2015, saying the pastor had been molesting and raping her since she began attending the church in 2007.
The victim, described as between the ages of 12 and 18, told investigators the assaults took place on church property after services and during the week when came by to do work around the property.
Afterward, she said, Randall would give her money or take her out to lunch. She said the pastor discouraged her from telling anyone, saying "it would ruin both of their lives," the warrant stated.
During an October 2015 interview, Randall denied the accusations. The content of a subsequent interview in September 2017 was redacted from the arrest warrant.
Randall is well-known in both Christian and political circles, having mounted a run against U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown.
The Rev. Pernell Raggins, who leads a St. Augustine church, said he's never seen Randall do anything inappropriate.
"Pastor Randall has served the community well," Raggins said. "I’m devastated by the news that you just shared with me, but all I have to say about this man of God is that he has done a lot for the Orange Park area."
A former member of St. Simons Baptist who lives next to the church told News4Jax that the allegations were shocking and that Randall was a good minister who did a lot for the area.
"His congregation all loved him. It’s just a shock to hear something like that has happened," said the neighbor, who did not want his name used. "It’s just, like, disgusting. He baptized me, so I need to be re-baptized."
Neighbors said Randall is divorced and lives alone. He is still listed as pastor on the church's sign.