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Wife of former Atoka pastor, accuser testify during second day of trial

TIPTON COUNTY, Tenn. — The second day in the trial for a former pastor accused of sexually assaulting several boys in now underway.

Tuesday’s trial date started with Ronnie Gorton’s ex-wife Rhonda Gorton taking the stand. She talked extensively about how the couple met and what West Tennessee churches they belonged too, including awakening church in Atoka.  Rhonda broke down into tears as she talked about the decline of their marriage and said she had no idea what was allegedly going on in the upstairs bedroom of their home in Drummonds, Tennessee.

According to prosecutors, that’s where Ronnie had inappropriate sexual contact with a young boy, who was living in the home, and with other young boys on separate occasions. He allegedly provided them with liquor, pornographic movies and initiated sexual contact.

Rhonda testified that Ronnie would frequently spend the entire night in the room, and not with her. She also said that she did discover pornography on Ronnie’s computer.

The most powerful testimony thus far came from the young man who lived in the Gorton’s household from 2016 to 2018 when he was a middle school student and then became a high school student. The alleged victim came from a broken home and said he referred to Ronnie as ‘dad.’

He also testified that Ronnie made continual sexual advances on him. It went from touching his genitals, to oral sex and then to penetration. The victim says Ronnie’s advances continued on a daily basis.

In the beginning, the suspect allegedly used references to the bible to justify his wanting to hold the boy. The accuser eventually left the house once Awakening Church closed.

There was tension between the accuser and Blake Ballin, Ronnie Gorton’s attorney. The accuser told Ballin his demeanor reminded him of Ronnie’s. That prompted a sidebar by Judge Joe Walker, who cautioned the witness to not be argumentative.

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