BENTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A former Benton County pastor accused of raping young girls is now behind bars facing multiple counts of statutory rape, but investigators fear there may be more victims.
According to authorities, the case involves multiple victims ranging in age from 12 to 16 years of age, and so far, jurisdiction involves three states.
Josh Henley was a church pastor at the Church of Christ in Holladay and a volunteer assistant basketball coach at the neighboring Holladay school, according to investigators.
“It’s very sad, it’s sad to think that this can go on with authority figures like this,” Benton County Sheriff Kenny Christopher told News 2.
He says the investigation began last Thursday with a 15-year-old victim from the church, but the list of young girls quickly grew.
“At least 3 or 4 are going to be in our area and we are in the early stages of investigating this,” he explained.
Warrants for Henley detail four incidents, dating over a nearly 4-year span with the latest incident in November of 2020.
“It had been happening for a while. Apparently, he started on some of these girls, from what we are understanding, maybe the grooming stages, trying to feel the girls out to lead them into what he was wanting to do,” said Sheriff Christopher.
Henley moved near Evansville, Indiana earlier this year, where investigators say he is a youth minister and has continued working in youth camps across the country.
“It looks like his circle of victims was just getting larger and larger, spreading out more and more.”
Investigators believe there are likely victims in Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas and possibly Arizona as well.
The sheriff says Henley was bringing a Benton County teen home last week after spending time with him and his wife in Indiana, when investigators arrested him.
“It’s tragic that it happened, it’s tragic that it happened in a small place like this where everybody knows everybody,” he explained.
Henley has no criminal background, and the Sheriff says he is highly respected in the community.
“He was so under the radar that I don’t think anybody, anybody, suspected him at all,” saying that 32-year-old Henley is married with a young child and another one on the way.
He added that Henley was signed up to serve as director at a youth summer camp in Oklahoma starting next month.
We reached out to Church of Christ in Holliday and Washington Avenue Church of Christ in Indiana but have yet to hear back.
“This arrest is the result of an extensive ongoing investigation through the coordination of several agencies,” states District Attorney Matthew F. Stowe. “I am very pleased with the team effort of all parties. This case typifies the issues that law enforcement face in dealing with sexual crimes involving minors, which have increased in the wake of the imposed COVID isolation.”
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Benton County Sheriff’s Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the District Attorney’s Office are working the investigation.
Henley is being held in Benton County on a $500,000 bond. He is facing three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure and one count of aggravated sexual battery, with more charges expected.
If anyone has information about this investigation, call the Benton County Sheriff’s Office at (731) 584-4632.