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Pastor’s sentencing for sex crimes postponed

The Exeter community will have to wait a little longer to move past a pastor’s sex crimes after the sentencing was delayed until next month.

Alton “Gene” Durrough, 62, of Exeter was scheduled for sentencing on April 11 but the hearing was rescheduled until 8:30 a.m. on May 2 in Department 4. Durrough is facing between 20 years to life in prison after pleading no contest, which has the same consequences as a guilty plea, to 23 felony charges during a preliminary hearing on March 4. Dorrough charges included 14 counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a minor under the age of 14, four counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a minor age 14 or 15, four counts of lewd and lascivious acts using force during a sex crime against a minor and one count of oral copulation on a minor. The alleged sexual abuse took place from 2007-2010.

In a bizarre twist, Durrough decided to change his plea to no contest less than a year after pleading not guilty to all charges during an arraignment on May 9, 2012. The District Attorney’s Office said no plea bargains or agreements were offered to Durrough and they are still unsure what motivated him to change his plea. The DA’s office could not be reached for comment as to why the sentencing was postponed.

Dorrough was arrested by Tulare County Sheriff’s detectives on May 7, 2012 after a female juvenile reported to the Exeter Police Department that he had been sexually abusing her for several years. The victim’s name and age are being withheld because of the nature of the crimes. The news of his arrest quickly sent shockwaves through the community of Exeter. The Dorrough family, including his wife Linda and daughter Kristina, moved to Exeter in 2005 to start a Celebrate Recovery program, a Christ-centered 12-step program for “hurts, habits and hang-ups.”

The program started in March 2006 at the Church of God of Exeter. Gene and Linda became Recovery Pastors in March 2011. In 2010, the Dorroughs founded Mirror Image Ministries, Inc. The non-profit ministry was not affiliated with any church or denomination with the purpose of using only volunteers to support the common good of the community. That July, Dorrough purchased the “old yellow house” at the corner of Palm and E streets as a meeting place for Celebrate Recovery. It briefly served as a foster care home before reopening as a women’s transitional living facility in April 2012.

Dorrough had been a volunteer with the Exeter Police Department since February 2008 and became a department chaplain in 2010. The investigation was handled by the Sheriff’s Department.

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