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Volunteer charged with molestation

By Ed Brock

A former youth group volunteer at Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Christian Academy in Jonesboro has been charged with aggravated child molestation.

The 20-year-old victim, who said the molestation began when he was 15, told police he brought the incidents to light because "he could no longer deal with the mental stress."

Richard Mark Dickens, 30, of Fairburn has been charged with aggravated child molestation. He was arrested Tuesday and is still in jail, according to police.

During the investigation, two other men made additional claims of molestation. They were 15 at the time of the alleged abuse but the statute of limitations, which is seven years, has expired and those cases cannot be pursued, according to police.

The incidents that led to the charges against Dickens allegedly began in the early summer of 1998.

"Some of the encounters occurred on the property of (the church) where both the victim and the suspect attended church services," Turner said.

Dickens, who denied the allegations to police, submitted to a polygraph test that showed deception, according to police. It was after the test that he was taken into custody.

Mt. Zion Baptist's Senior Pastor, the Rev. Chris Reynolds, made a very brief statement regarding the accusations, in which he refers to Dickens as a former member of the church.

Reynolds said the church is cooperating fully with the police investigation and that "the care and protection of our people and community are of extreme importance and we do not condone any inappropriate action."

Reynolds also said that he had no first-hand knowledge of the alleged incidents.

"We have the assurance that God will provide truth in times of confusion and peace in times of turmoil," Reynolds said. "We ask that you pray for the individuals and families involved. We further ask that you pray continuously for the church and the academy."

Dickens' preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 4.