Pastor likely contracted hepatitis B from sexual-misconduct victim

Sunday, May 14, 2017
Frank Burgess

A Cape Girardeau pastor who claimed he lied to a judge when he pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct likely contracted hepatitis B from his victim, according to a police report obtained by the Southeast Missourian.

Frank Burgess, now 58, Hurley Dixon and Bruce Johnson were accused in 2002 of sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman with the mental capacity of a 5-year-old who was a member of Marble Hill Bible Chapel in Marble Hill, Missouri, where Burgess was a part-time preacher, Dixon a songleader and Johnson a Sunday-school teacher.

Burgess pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual misconduct and served a 60-day jail sentence as part of a plea deal in 2005.

Johnson's charges were dropped after a judge disqualified the victim as a witness.

Dixon received a four-year sentence after pleading guilty a day before his trial.

Burgess became pastor at Fellowship Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau about seven years ago. He recently withdrew from an engagement to help lead a young-adult Bible retreat in Canada after knowledge of his conviction caused concern among members of the host church.

He since has denied ever having sex with the victim, but documents filed in the case by investigators in 2002 suggest he did.

The victim told investigators the three men made her engage in sexual acts on many occasions before her parents discovered the acts in February 2002, according to a probable-cause statement filed in the case by Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper Steve Jarrell.

Because of her mental handicap, the victim could not ascribe dates to all of the assaults but provided other details that led investigators to find evidence that corroborated her account, Jarrell wrote.

Her statements to police included descriptions of Dixon's undergarments and of the condoms investigators later found in his truck, Jarrell wrote.

The victim described two incidents involving Burgess, telling police he made her have sex with him once in Burgess' living room and once in an upstairs home office while his son was downstairs and his wife and daughter were gone, Jarrell wrote.

The victim said Burgess did not use a condom either time, unlike the other men accused, who she said used condoms, according to the statement.

When Burgess was admitted to Saint Francis Medical Center in July 2001 with nausea and jaundice, blood tests confirmed he'd contracted hepatitis B, Jarrell wrote.

The victim, who was born with the disease, was the only other confirmed case of hepatitis B in Bollinger County before Burgess' diagnosis, and when questioned by public health authorities at the time, Burgess denied various risk factors for hepatitis B, Jarrell wrote.

Burgess told investigators he had served in the military about a decade previously and had recently eaten "bad shellfish," but hepatitis B symptoms present six months after exposure and the condition is spread "by the transmission of bodily fluids such as unprotected sexual activity," not by consuming seafood or shellfish, Jarrell wrote.

Questioned by police, Burgess denied having sex with the victim but said he and his wife had discussed the victim in the past, and his wife had advised him not to be alone with her, Jarrell wrote.

Reached by phone Friday, Burgess declined to say how he may have contracted hepatitis B.

"I'm sure anybody can draw any conclusion they want," he said, again denying having sexual contact with the victim.

"I still stand behind that," he said. "At this point, I really have nothing else to say."

Reached by phone Friday, Fellowship Baptist Church deacon Orville Warner said he was unaware Burgess was diagnosed with hepatitis B in 2001 or that the victim had the disease. Warner, who was Fellowship Baptist Church's only deacon at the time Burgess joined, said he and a group of seven or eight men who were members of the church knew of Burgess' conviction before asking him to be pastor, but Burgess' diagnosis was not discussed.

Warner expressed his continued support for the pastor.

tgraef@semissourian.com

(573) 388-3627

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