Preacher Pleads Guilty to Sex Crimes Against Minors
HENDERSON COUNTY, Tenn.- One West Tennessee pastor pleaded guilty to having inappropriate relationships with several underage girls from his church after a two year investigation by Henderson County deputies. Deputies said former Lexington Pastor Royce Wood, 61, plead guilty to one count of solicitation of a minor and two counts of sexual battery in circuit court, Tuesday. The plea came after cell phone evidence gathered by the TBI and FBI was presented to Wood and his attorney, according to authorities. “Mr. Wood did plead guilty in circuit court to one count of solicitation of a minor and two counts of sexual battery,” said Capt. Tracey Grisham, of the Henderson County Sheriff’s Dept. Capt. Grisham told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News the investigation started back in 2012, after an anonymous complaint accused the pastor of inappropriately touching girls ages 13, 14 and 15. Investigators said while as pastor, Wood also sent inappropriate text messages to a girl around 20 to 30 times a day for 6-7 months. “There were some text messages deemed inappropriate,” said Capt. Grisham. “We had to send some cell phones to the TBI and FBI office to have all of the data recovered.” Wood told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News he was pastor at Fellowship Church of Jesus in Lexington for more than 10 years. Officials said he stepped down after the allegations in 2012. The church subsequently changed its name to God’s Lighthouse. Wood said he still feels ashamed over his actions. Although he entered in a guilty plea he still maintains he never touched any of the girls. He said the reason he pleaded guilty was to end pain and start a healing process for all involved. “it’s very upsetting especially for him to be a preacher,” said neighbor Crystal Azbill. “I was in complete shock… I wanted to cry because I didn’t think he would be that way.” Authorities said Wood was given three years felony probation. He is required by law to now register as a sex offender.