Copyright © 2012 StarNewsOnline.com
Reprinted with permission
A Wilmington pastor pleaded guilty to six counts of felony sexual abuse of a minor by a substitute parent during a hearing in New Hanover County Superior Court on Monday.
Thomas Archie Wiggins, 55, a pastor at Wilmington’s Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, was sentenced to between six years and three months and nine years and nine months in prison. He was taken into custody Monday.
After serving the sentence, the Wilmington resident also must register as a sex offender for 30 years.
Wiggins was arrested in November 2011 and charged with five counts of first-degree sexual offense and five counts of indecent liberties with a minor after he admitted to abusing a then 14-year-old boy who had been in his care during 1998 and 1999, New Hanover County Assistant District Attorney Lance Oehrlein said during the hearing.
The teen often stayed at the pastor’s Governours Square apartment on the weekends and during summer months.
That’s when the predatory behavior began, Oehrlein said.
“The victim was given spending money, taken to stores to buy things and was given a lot of freedom that he didn’t have at home,” he said. “It started very slowly with wrestling matches and then accelerated when the victim was given access to cable and TV pornography.”
The two also shared a bed in the one-bedroom apartment, Oehrlein said.
One night, the teen awoke to Wiggins fondling him. The incidents then escalated, with Wiggins performing oral sex on the boy and vice versa, the prosecutor said.
“Meanwhile, the victim’s mother is 50 miles away and the defendant is acting as a parent and making decisions about him,” Oehrlein said.
Last fall, a tipster called the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office to report the abuse.
Detectives located the victim, who is now 28. He confronted Wiggins during a phone call recorded at the sheriff’s office.
“The defendant apologized about the abuse, but he then said something to the effect of ‘famous people who had been abused as children have gone on to lead really good lives – they’ve made something positive out of their experience,’” Oehrlein said during the hearing.
When questioned by detectives about the incidents, Wiggins admitted to the abuse but blamed the behavior on the victim and claimed that the teen had been “mentally ill” and violent, the prosecutor said.
Wiggins has been a pastor at Church of God in Christ at 1119 S. Fourth St. since December 1998. On Monday, several friends and family members gathered at the hearing to show their support, Wiggins’ attorney, Alex Hall said.
“He’s expressed remorse and asked for forgiveness for this for many years,” Hall said.
Wiggins did not make a statement before sentencing. The victim, who attended the hearing, also declined to speak.
Cassie Foss: 343-2365
On Twitter: @BreakingNews