Alleged Colleton Co. cult preacher accused of sexual misconduct released on bond

CBS News 5, South Carolina/January 25, 2018

By Harve Jacobs and Alissa Holmes

Colleton County, South Carolina -- The alleged Colleton County cult leader facing charges of sexual misconduct was released on bond Thursday, deputies say.

Ralph Stair, 85, is facing eight charges which include three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of assault with intent to commit first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of kidnapping, one count of burglary, one count of second-degree assault and one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. 

A judge set bond at $750,000 Wednesday for Stair. In addition to the bond amount, Stair must also have electronic monitoring, forfeit his passport and have no contact with his accusers or persons under 18 at his compound. He must also grant unfettered access to law enforcement.

Stair was forced to remain in jail Wednesday night while details of the electronic monitoring were worked out. He was released Thursday, according to Colleton County Sheriff's Lt. Tyger Benton.

Stair appeared in the courtroom Wednesday, the first time he has been seen in public since his arrest on Dec. 18.

During the court hearing, one of Stair's accusers told the judge Stair has a lot of control at the compound and is worried about the children there. She said she did not want him to be allowed to return to the compound.

Stair's attorney said some of his supporters also came to the hearing and that they "really want him back" and asked for a "reasonable" bond between $250,000 and $500,000, citing Stair's age.

Prosecutors asked for a $1 million bond.

Judge Perry Buckner said he is concerned about the seriousness of the charges.

Stair faced a magistrate judge because he waived an earlier bond hearing scheduled before a circuit judge.

GRAPHIC: Some of the details of the charges contain explicit sexual references and may be very disturbing.

Stair was arrested in December 2017 at the Overcomer Ministry on Augusta Highway in Walterboro. The charges against Stair span more than 20 years from 1992 to June 2017. One charge stems from a woman's claim that Stair consistently harassed her for sex, stating he wanted to "kiss her tummy" which the victim said everyone understood to mean "oral sex."

Another charge states Stair was preaching to his congregation and called an underage girl to approach him on two separate occasions, asked her age, and fondled her right breast according to investigators.  Investigators say Stair came to one victim's residence from January 1998 until the early part of June 1999.  The victim told detectives that once he was in her home, he would sexually assault her, and said it happened approximately 35 or more times over the course of a year-and-a-half. 

Stair's arrest in December came three months after Live 5 News police reporter Harve Jacobs investigated Stair. The investigation stemmed from a video which showed Stair apparently grabbing a 12-year-old girl during a church service.

Stair was arrested in 2004 for improperly touching two female members of the church. He eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and got two 30-day terms. 

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