Church elder sentenced to 80 years in prison for sex assaults in Cleburne county

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CLEBURNE COUNTY, Ark. — A church leader convicted of sexually assaulting children has been sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Roderick Watkins, 57, received the jury’s verdict last week in Cleburne county.

Watkins was an elder in the Jehovah’s Witness church, according to court documents.

Court documents reveal that at least four people came forward over the past year, accusing Watkins of sexually assaulting them while they were children.

The four victims included three boys and one girl.

Cleburne county sheriff, Chris Brown, says six other people came forward as the trial neared, bringing the total number of accusers to 10.

The state prosecuted Watkins on four charges. He received the maximum penalty, 20 years, for each one.

“I think that’s a testament to just how strongly our community feels about things like this,” Brown says.

The crimes happened in various places, including Cleburne county, Batesville and Little Rock, according to victim statements in court documents.

One victim’s mother told detectives she reported the assault to church leaders, and nothing was done at first with the exception of suspension of some of Watkins’ duties, according to court documents.

We reached out to Watkins’ wife and we reached out to his attorney, but both declined to comment.

I think for someone involved in behavior like this, the message should be: when you get caught, not if you get caught, but when you get caught it’s going to be taken seriously,” Brown says.

“Because it’s wrong.”

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