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Colleton County preacher Ralph Stair arrested for sex assault, other charges, deputies say

Ralph Gordon Stair (Source Colleton County Sheriff's Office).jpg

A Colleton County pastor has been arrested on multiple charges, including three counts of 1st degree criminal sexual conduct, and one count of 3rd degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

Ralph G. Stair, 84, the leader of Colleton County-based Overcomer Ministry, is in jail at the Colleton County Detention Center after his arrest shortly before 8 a.m. Monday, according to CCSO spokesman, Lt. Tyger Benton.

Deputies arrested Stair after serving warrants on eight charges, which are as follows:

  • 3 counts - 1st degree Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC)
  • 1 count - Assault with intent to commit 1st degree criminal sexual conduct
  • 1 count – 3rd degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor
  • 1 count - Kidnapping
  • 1 count - 1st degree burglary
  • 1 count – 2nd degree assault

Lt. Benton says Stair was arrested as part of an ongoing investigation, but could not confirm other details about the specifics of Stair's arrest at the time of this report.

Benton says the Colleton County Sheriff's Office is being assisted in its investigation by SLED, the FBI and the Dept. of Homeland Security.

ABC News 4 first reached out to the Colleton County Sheriff's Office in October about sexual misconduct allegations against Stair, following tips from viewers about the alleged incidents, some of which are documented on videos of Stair's worship services.

A background check provided by SLED shows Stair in May 2002 was arrested and charged with two counts each of 2nd degree criminal sexual conduct, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, and breach of trust.

Stair was not convicted of the criminal sexual conduct or breach of trust charges, and the two aggravated assault charges were reduced to simple assault. Stair was convicted and sentenced to time served on the assault charges.

Court records show Stair also was in August 2002 charged with illegally moving dead bodies and burying them on his property without notifying authorities, but that case later was dropped.

Stair is an end times evangelist, prophesying the imminent return of Jesus Christ. He founded and leads Overcomer Ministry, which is located in the Canadys community near the Colleton-Dorchester county line.

Stair's most devout followers live with him in a commune setting at the Overcomer Ministry property, according to the church's website, "with common baths and common eating, all seeking to live together in love for God and each other."

"We do not go anywhere as we need not do so. We work the farm and have our school and with the simple life; we need very little that the world offers," the Overcomer Ministry website says. "We go nowhere, no shopping, or trips to see what have you. Your life will be here on the farm until Jesus comes."

The ministry's brochure says that followers who come to live on the property relinquish their worldly possessions and money "to the Lord," and must subject themselves to Stair's authority and the "biblical" rules he has established for the community, including allocation of supplies.

Some of the rules include:

  • The man of God (Brother Stair) shall have sole discretion to judge the legitimacy of need and to direct distribution to satisfy the need.
  • A curfew is imposed from the hours of 10:00 P.M. until 4:00 A.M.
  • Residents will restrict themselves to their dwellings during the hours of curfew unless special permission is granted by the man of God (Brother Stair).
  • The residents ... acknowledge the right of the man of God to discipline and direct and correct residents who exhibit unbiblical behavior.
  • The residents recognize the practice of shunning as necessary in correcting the unrepentant and insubordinate.
  • The residents recognize expulsion from the community as a sanction of last resort for the rebelliously unrepentant.

Stair does not require membership in the community to attend worship services.

Stair also broadcasts sermons over the radio, and shares videos of the services on the internet.

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