Preacher charged with sex crimes

PONTOTOC – A preacher charged with sex crimes against a 13-year-old girl has resigned his Pontotoc County pastor position and remains in jail under a quarter-million-dollar bond.
William Gerald Sanford, 54, of 1716 Cairo Loop, Ecru, was charged Tuesday with molestation and sexual battery and remains under arrest at the Pontotoc County Jail.
Sanford led First Baptist Church of Sardis in Panola County from 1991 to 2008, when he became pastor of Cairo Baptist Church near the Pontotoc-Union County line.
A representative of the Pontotoc Baptist Association, who asked not to be named, said Sanford resigned his pastorate at Cairo Baptist Church after communicating indirectly with the congregation.
“He did submit a resignation,” the representative said. “He acknowledged the offense.”
The representative added that such an allegation is doubly traumatic to a small church and members of its congregation.
“Some are sad and grieved, some angry,” he said. “Some were sick who love their pastor.
“To most of the people it’s unbelievable. You expect this to happen, if it does, in a large church with multiple staff – not in a small, rural church.”
David Howell, editor of Sardis’ Southern Reporter newspaper, said the allegations about Sanford also have upset folks in that town.
“He was a part of the Sardis Volunteer Fire Department, and he spent a lot of time working with the Mississippi Baptist disaster relief team,” Howell said. “He was very active in this community.”
Sardis Police Chief John Still could not be immediately reached Thursday afternoon to comment on whether any investigations might extend to his town.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal