Rev. Ballard's family speaks out

DECEMBER 18, 2004 -- The local minister arrested Wednesday night and charged with having sex with a child remains in the New Hanover County jail under a $10 million bond.

Rev. Jonathan Ballard, founder of Straightway Ministries, is charged with several sex charges involving a minor. Investigators think there could be more victims, and say they expect more charges next week.

If convicted, the charges could add up to life in prison.

Investigators say the victim was a girl who belonged to Ballard's church on Highway 421.

"I know my brother is innocent," said Michelle Ballard-Dempsey in a phone interview from her Massachusetts home. "I couldn't believe the charges because merely of the fact of the sacrifices he made for the ministry for over a decade. The youth he helped out in the community that had drug problems, dysfunctional families. My brother helped them to have a better life."

Ballard-Dempsey lives in Massachusetts, along with most of Rev. Ballard's family. She says the family is behind their brother and friend.

Reported by Sara Straeten