A church volunteer who had direct contact with children at the First Baptist Church of Mango has been arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a young girl during a three-year period.
William Richardson, 47, was taken into custody at his home in Brandon on Wednesday on capital rape charges. Hillsborough County Sheriff's investigators said Richardson attacked a girl multiple times from the age of 9 to 11.
"I have to trust in God to help see us through," said Vesta Dickinson, church secretary and wife of the pastor.
"My husband has to announce it to the congregation on Sunday morning. That's going to be very difficult," Dickinson said.
Richardson was a lifelong member of the church, according to Dickinson, and was an assistant in the youth ministries and choir.
"I'm really upset about this. I never saw it coming," said Nita Allred, youth ministries director for the church. "I'm so sorry that this happened," Allred said.
Detectives said they received a complaint about Richardson on Oct. 22. After talking undercover with Richardson, investigators said they were able to corroborate the stories of abuse and arrest him.
A lifelong member of the First Baptist Church of Mango, several members said they had known Richardson for decades. The ministries director said he was popular with children.
"They loved him," Allred said.
Richardson lived with his father, William Richardson, Sr., who was at home at the time his son was taken into custody.
"That's a foolish thing, there," Richardson, Sr. said. "More than foolish. It's just terrible. I feel sorry for the child if that's true," he said.
Richardson made his first appearance before a judge Thursday, and was ordered held without bond because of the capital crime charge.
"You have to believe someone else knew, or at least there exists other victims," said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.
Staff said in addition to their church, Richardson volunteered at other churches in the area.
Investigators are asking anyone with information about Richardson or additional victims to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.