- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - A former pastor at a Birmingham-area Baptist Church has been charged with sexual abuse and sodomy after two adults told investigators he molested them years ago when they were children.

Sharon Heights Baptist Church cut all ties with the Rev. Jay Strickland, who had served as the Jefferson County church’s administrative pastor, after sheriff’s investigators arrested him last month. Strickland was freed from jail on $70,000 bond and faces a preliminary court hearing July 17.

Authorities began investigating Strickland in April after a man came forward and said the minister had sexually abused him as a boy, al. com reported (https://bit.ly/VG1gdW ). Jefferson County sheriff’s Sgt. Jack Self said investigators later tracked down a woman who told them she too had been molested by Strickland during her childhood.

Few other details about the case have been released. Strickland’s defense attorney, Richard Jaffe, said authorities claim the abuse described by their witnesses happened at least seven years ago.

“Jay is deeply distressed and shocked about these unproven allegations,” said Jaffe. He added that Strickland “has an exemplary background and character and those who know him are extremely upset and equally shocked by these allegations.”

The Rev. Terry Trivette, the senior pastor at Sharon Heights Baptist Church, said Strickland no longer works there.

“Upon knowledge of the allegations against Mr. Jay Strickland, the necessary legal authorities were notified, and Mr. Strickland was placed upon an indefinite leave of absence from the church,” Trivette said in a statement. “Upon knowledge of Mr. Strickland’s arrest, he was formally relieved of his duties and is no longer employed by Sharon Heights Baptist Church.”

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