PALESTINE, TX (KLTV) – An East Texas preacher is in jail accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl for several months.
Larry Gene Martin, 68, of Palestine is charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child.
Martin reportedly preached for decades in churches all over the state, and that has authorities looking into the possibility that there could be more victims.
Martin's 50 years of preaching may have ended at Faith Bible Church, down a side road off FM 315 in Palestine. That's where authorities say he pastored the family of a 12-year-old girl.
After Martin's wife died, investigators say he grew closer to the family.
"The family really trusted this man. They brought him in as a friend. They asked him to live in their home. He had nowhere to live," said Captain Jay Russell, of the Anderson County Sheriff's Office.
Russell says sometime after Martin moved in, he began molesting the girl, and it went on for months.
"He actually moved out and she came forward and told her parents," said Russell.
He says during an investigator's interview, Martin admitted to the allegations.
"He indicated to the investigators that he was in love with this child, said Russell. "In fact he told my investigators that he planned on marrying her."
Martin's brother-in-law, Gary Harvey, says he's always known him as a church-going man.
"It makes me very sad," said Harvey. "The accusations are against a person I don't know. The one I know wouldn't do anything like this."
Harvey says he was a member of what he calls the tiny church in the back of the woods, where Martin preached every Sunday morning.
"This is a preacher family. So, it hurts everybody," said Harvey.
"She reached out to him as a possible parental figure. He took that and pretty much ran with it," said Russell. "He told us he knew it was wrong. He admitted that he knew it was wrong."
Now, authorities say there may be more victims as far as Houston.
Investigators say because of extenuating circumstances, Martin was moved to the Henderson County Jail.
His bond is set at $75,000.