Methodist Preacher from Mississippi Sentenced for Sexual Abusing a Child, SNAP Applauds the Brave Victim and Pioneering Advocates who Enabled Justice
A Methodist Preacher from Mississippi has been convicted of sexually abusing a then 10-year-old girl in Iuka, MS. This prosecution never would have happened if were not for the brave victim coming forward and for the exhaustive advocacy and journalism by advocates from The Wartburg Watch. The Mississippi Methodist community owes these women a debt of gratitude for their tireless efforts to get a dangerous abuser out of his position where he could groom and abuse other children.
Leanne Kay had been sexually abused by Dural R. “Raggy” Ragsdale in the mid-1970s when Ragsdale was living at Leanne’s family home and working as a preacher at the Iuka United Methodist Church. As is common with cases of childhood sexual abuse, Leanne buried the memories until the early 2000s when she decided to call and confront her abuser. Fortunately for children in Mississippi, Leanne’s brave call was recorded and a clear confession from her abuser was caught on tape.
Despite the evidence she had and her own testimony, Leanne had trouble getting the authorities to pay attention to her, but advocates for children and survivors were able to pick up the slack. Leanne reached out to Amy Smith, a former SNAP leader who is a longtime and current advocate for survivors in the Baptist church. Amy then put Leanne in contact with Mark Belenchia, a SNAP leader in Mississippi who also put Leanne in contact with Dee at the Wartburg Watch. While Mark helped Leanne navigate the reporting structures in Mississippi, Dee and the Wartburg Watch helped get Leanne’s story and evidence out into the world.
Three years after that call was uploaded to the Wartburg Watch website, Ragsdale has finally faced justice for his crimes. We know that this never would have happened were it not for Leanne’s bravery and the work done by advocates along the way. It is especially disturbing to know that in the intervening years, Ragsdale had been operating a YouTube channel under the name “Uncle Raggy” that was clearly aimed at attracting children as viewers. This is an example of how predators will use any tool at their disposal to find and create more victims and we are glad that his channel has been removed from the platform.
We hope that this sentence brings closure and healing to Leanne and will result in more parents and parishioners in Mississippi taking steps to prevent future cases of sexual abuse in their communities. A key step towards preventing and intervening in sexual abuse is for parents to have conversations with their child about the issue, and hopefully this story can help jumpstart those conversations for Methodist families in Mississippi and beyond.
CONTACT: Mark Belenchia, SNAP Mississippi ([email protected], 601-953-2535), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)