Youth minister falsely accused of sexual abuse returns to church

By Shayla Reaves - bio | email

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) - After months of waiting, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church finally has its youth minister back. Clayton Pruett was arrested and jailed after detectives say a church member falsely accused him of sexual abuse more than eight months ago. WAVE 3's Shayla Reaves was there as his congregation welcomed him back.

It's a day members of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church waited seven months to see. Youth Minister Clayton Pruett is back in the pulpit to face the members of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church.

"You believed in me, you gave me a chance to clear my name," Pruett told the congregation that gave him a standing ovation."It's through the grace of God and the works of so many that this has happened."

Investigators say a member's lie sent Pruett to jail, and almost cost the youth minister his job. Another member of the congregation, Debra Kay Perez Johnson, told police Pruett sexually abused her teenage daughter - a claim she later admitted to making up.

"Thank goodness that this woman finally admitted that she was telling lies, she cast a bad light on me, on them, on the church and it was unfair all the way around," said Pruett. "There's nothing that a person could accuse you of that's worse than hurting a child."

"The people involved were our family, it just hurt us that there was a split now," said church member James Clark. "You're like 'should I believe the Johnson family or should I believe the Pruetts?' And it just tore us apart for a moment."

Police say it is not a matter of if, but when, Debra Kay Perez Johnson will be charged for making false statements. Church members tell us she is no longer a part of the church and has since moved out of state.

Now, with his name cleared, the goal for everyone - including Pruett - is to make up for time missed. He's already finding the humor in a situation, that's taught him so much.

"I thought long and hard about what to preach, I've learned so many new lessons," Pruett told the congregation."I learned that I'm a lot fatter on TV than I thought I was!"

"It was very relieving, it felt much better," said youth member Daniel Willhite." It felt like old times again and finally we can have our youth minister back."

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