A 75-year-old former pastor has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for having sexual contact with children.
Harry Thomas, former pastor of Come Alive New Testament Church in Medford, N.J., and co-founder of the Creation Festival, plead guilty of sexual assaults and other crimes involving five minors.
As part of a plea agreement earlier this year, Thomas acknowledged sexually assaulting a 9-year-old in 2005, having sexual contact with three girls ages 7 to 9 in 2000 and 2010, and exposing himself to a girl between 2008 and 2010. Prosecutors would not comment on whether the victims were church members.
Relatives of the victims were in court during sentencing, and in testimony two of them described Thomas as a “ravenous wolf” and a “hypocrite” who professed to be a man of God while victimizing children. Burlington County assistant prosecutor Stephen Eife called Thomas “a devil in disguise.”
Thomas wept as he expressed remorse about his crimes. “I’m very sorry for the pain I’ve caused,” he said.
Referencing a biblical passage about punishment for those who harm children, he said, “I agree with the scriptures. It would be better for a millstone to be hung around my neck and be cast into the sea. That’s what I deserve.”
Superior Court Judge Jeanne Covert said she recognized that Thomas might die in prison but the 18-year sentence was appropriate given the crimes and the risk of Thomas reoffending. Prosecutors sought the maximum 20-year prison term.
Thomas started Come Alive Ministries and a Christian rock radio show called the Come Alive show in 1973. Soon after he began promoting concerts and festivals and then founded the Come Alive Church.
Come Alive “indefinitely suspended Thomas from all leadership positions with the church and all associated ministries after he was arrested in December. He has been housed in Burlington County jail since his arrest.
His other ministries include building schools and hospitals in Haiti and Africa.