According to WVLT, nearly two dozen men were arrested last month on human trafficking charges. One of them was Jason Evan Kennedy, a children’s pastor at Grace Baptist in Karns, Tennessee.
Kennedy was fired as a result of the arrest. Church leaders released the following statement:
“The actions of the children’s pastor for which he has been arrested were part of his life outside the church, and we have received no questions or concerns related to his conduct within the church or its ministries.”
They added, “We are praying for his family and will continue to provide the services of our ministry to them.”
Church leaders said Kennedy was hired two-and-a-half years ago. Church administrators got a background check on Kennedy and it turned up with no issues at the time. It did not indicate any previous problems. Church leaders believed Kennedy was a good fit because he listed a children’s pastor as a reference on his application. That pastor affirmed Kennedy had no issues in his background.
It’s scary that a man like him was able to gain a position where he worked with children on a weekly basis.
According to a police report, Kennedy responded to a Backpage.com ad via text message. The report says Kennedy was made aware that there would be two girls present, one was 15 years old. He negotiated $100 for a half hour of sex with both girls.
He was told to go to a gas station on Merchants Road for further instructions. Then he received instructions to go to a hotel room where the girls were.
The report says he stated he wanted to have sex with both girls he thought were inside. He put the agreed upon $100 on the counter. He removed his pants and then law enforcement took him into custody.
RBI Directr Mark Gwyn said, “Our work is not finished. We want to make sure there is no safe place to hide for criminals who would victimize the most vulnerable among us. We want anyone answering an ad for sex to think that a TBI agent and a Knoxville Police officer may be on the other end of that line.”
Kennedy is charged with human trafficking and patronizing prostitution.
During the investigation, undercover agents posted ads on Backpage.com, including an ad posing as an underage girl. Three-hundred people made contact in relation to those ads. More than two dozen people made contact in relation to the ad of the agents posed as an underage girl.
“What so many people in our community don’t quite understand is that human trafficking is a demand driven crime. And that demand comes from every single part of our society, including those parts that we’d all like to believe are not part of the problem,” said Trudell.
Here is the arrest list provided by WVLT Local 8 Nashville:
Michael Clayton, 43, Clinton, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Larry Quarles, 52, New Market, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Gerrado Merchant, 36, Jacksboro, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
James Perkins, 50, Sweetwater, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Greg Hensley, 44, Mascot, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Jaton Johnson, 38, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution, Simple Possession
Samuel Rivers, 27, East Point, GA – Patronizing Prostitution, Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, Simple Possession
Prashante Bhakta, 35, Columbus, NC – Patronizing Prostitution
James Warren, 32, Newport, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Gary Bauer, 56, Heiskell, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Nicholas Rains, 24, Maryville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Ignacio Jimenez, 38, Maryville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Patrick Douthat, 27, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Brandon Slatton, 22, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Jeffrey Sweeney, 63, Knoxivlle, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Robert Aiken, 48, Jacksboro, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Atari McNabb, 28, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Zubin Parakh, 32, Oak Ridge, TN – Patronizing Prostitution, Trafficking
Jonathan McCarthy, 30, Augusta, GA – Patronizing Prostitution
Jose Juarez, 38, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Robert Lambert, 40, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Cornelius Turner, 25, Memphis, TN – Promoting Prostitution
Jerry Rhode, 63, Kodak, TN – Patronizing Prostitution
Zachary Desha, 24, Knoxville, TN – Promoting Prostitution
Jason Kennedy, 46, Knoxville, TN – Patronizing Prostitution, Trafficking
Kelsey Martin, 23, Boaz, KY – Prostitution
Alexis Phelps, 21, Knoxville, TN – Prostitution
Shirley Henry, 23, Clinton, TN – Prostitution
Stephanie Thomas, 26, Knoxville, TN – Prostitution
Crystal Myers, 37, Knoxville, TN – Prostitution
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