Grand Jury Reinstates Charges Against Stair

Press and Standard/July 16, 2002
By Libby Roerig

Despite the recent dismissal at a preliminary hearing in Colleton County grand jury has reinstated all charges against local minister Ralph Stair, according to 14th Judicial Circuit Deputy Solicitor T.K. Alexander.

Stair, 69, is currently being held at the Colleton County Detention Center without bail for two counts of breach of trust, two counts of criminal sexual conduct, unlawful burying of a body without notice or inquiry and failure to get authorization for the removal of a dead body.

A self-proclaimed prophet, Stair is the leader of a long-time religious community in Canadys known as the Overcomer Ministry. He also preaches for hours over AM, short-wave radio and the Internet to a worldwide audience of followers.

The breach of trust and criminal sexual conduct charges were brought against Stair on behalf of former followers of his ministry. At a preliminary hearing on July 2, Colleton County Chief Magistrate Richard Wood dismissed the two breach of trust charges and bound over the other two charges to the grand jury, who issued true bills for all four offenses Friday. A true bill Means at least 12 of 18 jurors felt there was probable cause to uphold the charge.

The two offenses dealing with an illegal burial stem from the State Law Enforcement Division's exhumation of the infant Jonathan Bush on June 27. Two other Overcomers, Dennis Mann Bush, 36, and David Marratto, 57, also face the same charges as Stair.

The trio is accused of burying the child's body in February 1994, without authorization of the Colleton County Coroner, according to the arrest warrants. Though Bush and Marratto's warrants indicate they were physically involved with the burial, Stair's warrant says he "moved or caused to (move) the body." Bush and Marratto have been released on $10,000 personal recognizance bonds.

Stair has also been confronted with allegations of neglect from family members of a recently deceased follower Stan Bean, 27. Though an autopsy revealed Bean's cause of death to be from a cerebral herniation, his father says his son could have been saved with proper medical care. The Overcomer Ministry does not use the services of medical doctors.

Though 14th Judicial Circuit Judge Perry Buckner denied Stair bond at an earlier bond hearing, the defendant has the option of filing for another hearing this month.

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