JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville pastor was arrested and charged with capital sexual battery after a raid at his North Jacksonville church, according to a news release from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Paul Dyal, 78, pastor of the Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ on Old Kings Road North, was arrested Wednesday night after a coordinated police raid on the church.
“The investigation revealed both long-term sexual and physical abuse of minors in the church spanning a period of over thirty years,” the Sheriff’s Office said in its news release. JSO said the investigation began in September 2020 after it received a tip regarding possible sexual abuse.
While investigators were making the arrest, additional warrants were being served in Oklahoma. The Sheriff’s Office said Jerome Teschendorf, 68, who was arrested in Newalla, Oklahoma, and Vernon Williamson, 85, who was arrested in Ardmore, Oklahoma, were also arrested and charged with capital sexual battery.
The JSO said that through the course of the investigation, the police “have identified and spoken to numerous victims and witnesses.” As a result, the Sheriff’s Office said, police believe there are additional suspects. It asked that anyone who believes they might have information to share to come forward by calling JSO or submitting an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida.
The Sheriff’s Office believes there could be more than a dozen victims.
News4JAX went to the church property in Jacksonville and tried to speak with people there, but no one would comment. No one answered the phone either.
Dyal appeared before a judge on the charge Thursday afternoon and was ordered to be held without bond. The judge noted that Dyal could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.
His arraignment date was set for March 31.
Attorney claims decades of abuse
Outside of Dyal’s first appearance, attorney Cynthia Crawford, who’s representing several survivors in the case said they include both men and women, and that the case spans to different states.
“We plan to prove that this has been going on for over 40 years. It is time for the victims to have a voice and be heard and to see Mr. Dyal finally in handcuffs,” Crawford said.
One woman who said she survived Dyal’s abuse told News4JAX she couldn’t be more relieved to know he’s behind bars.
She told News4JAX in a phone interview that the abuse was not a one-time thing, and that her memories of the North Jacksonville church bring nothing but pain.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, said the assaults happened to her several times over five years.
“When I went in, was about five. And it was fine. And then my parents would get sent to go out of town to other churches, and I would be left with other people. But the first time I was left with them, Paul Dyal and his wife -- that’s the first time it happened,” she said.
The survivor and Crawford said they feel the truth is about to come out.
Church member shocked at allegations
One member of the church, who wished to remain anonymous, called News4JAX to say he believes the allegations are “ludicrous.”
“Kids love him. He’s one of the purest men that I have ever been around,” the man said.
The man who spoke with News4JAX says he believes that lies from multiple people have led to the pastor being arrested and vilified.
“It makes my blood boil to see the comments people are making and I thought we were supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.” the man said. “Just because someone makes an accusation or a number of people making an accusation, doesn’t make something true.”
News4JAX has also learned that Dyal is an author and appears to have written three or four books -- which are currently up for purchase on Amazon. News4JAX has reached out to Amazon for comment to see if Amazon will allow the books to remain on the site.