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Ex-Minister Accused of Raping 14-Year-Old Churchgoer Over 100 Times Kills Himself
Reverend Bryan Fulwider allegedly started grooming the teen at the age of 13 while she attended his church.
A Florida reverend who was facing a slew of sexual assault charges that could have led to life in prison if convicted died by suicide at his home while out on bail, according to local police.
Police responded to a call to Reverend Bryan Fulwider's home in Altamonte Springs late Sunday, October 27, for a report of a possible suicide, according to The Orlando Sentinel.
A police spokesman said Fulwider was pronounced dead at his home and the medical examiner ruled he died by suicide.
Rev. Bryan Fulwider was recently arrested after he was accused of repeatedly raping a teenage girl while he was her pastor.
Fulwider, 59, had been out on bail since late last week. He faced 30 counts of sexual battery of a person younger than 18 by a person in position of custodial authority among other charges, according to separate report from The Orlando Sentinel.
He had been accused of grooming his victim since age 13 when she attended his church, First Congregational Church of Winter Park, where Fulwider was senior minister. He allegedly raped the girl well over 100 times between 2005 and 2010, starting when she was 14, police say.
Authorities had stated they believed they had an “extremely strong" case against Fulwider, partially due to a hour-long controlled call between the former pastor and his accuser, where police claimed he admitted to having a sexual relationship with the girl.
“[T]here was never anything salacious or bad about it and you were always too damn mature for your own good and I have always loved you,” police said Fulwider told his accuser in the call, according to The Orlando Sentinel. “It wasn’t like I was off hunting people. It was a connection.”
The woman who accused Fulwider of sexually abusing her thanked the Winter Park Police Department after news of his suicide broke, but noted that he will now never see a courtroom.
“Fulwider’s day in court will never come because he knew all the truths I could tell,” the woman wrote in a statement, shared with the Sentinel on the condition of anonymity. “My story doesn’t stop with his cowardice through; I will work in the coming months to get justice for myself and any other victims impacted by Fulwider’s abuse.”
Fulwinder has not be accused of abusing anyone else, although police are still investigating the possibility of additional alleged victims.
An attorney for Fulwider said his death leaves him with a “heartache that will never mend." The lawyer and his client had previously said they “vehemently deny each and every allegation."
“We have been informed of the untimely and unfortunate death of Rev. Bryan G. Fulwider," attorney Jacob V. Stuart Jr., who also called Fulwider his spiritual adviser, wrote in a statement. "For his family and his friends, I pray they will find comfort and consolation during this time of sorrow and grief in always remembering the many ways Rev. Fulwider offered his support and solace to others.”
“This was not the case when it comes to Reverend Fulwider, especially when the ‘charges’ were measured against his innocence and when the salacious sensationalism of the accusations were compared to the facts," Stuart said. "Reverend Fulwider’s rights were denied.”
Fulwider also hosted a weekly radio broadcast on 90.7 WMFE called“Friends Talking Faith,” where he was one of "Three Wise Guys" alongside an imam and a rabbi. The show had been placed on indefinite hiatus following Fulwider's arrest in early October.
“We are shocked at the death by suicide of Bryan Fulwider. Our sympathies are with his family in their time of anguish,” the show wrote on its Facebook page. “We stand in solidarity with the victim or victims in this case that will now not have their day in court and receive the justice due to them.”