A popular Florida pastor is accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl — and he allegedly admitted to the allegations in a taped phone call.
“[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,” Rev. Bryan George Fulwider told his accuser in a recorded phone call, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “It wasn’t like I was off hunting people. It was a connection.”
Fulwider was arrested Wednesday after his victim filed a complaint with Winter Park police the day before alleging she had been sexually battered multiple times by Fulwider between 2005 and 2010 while he was a Senior Pastor at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park, according to a police news release obtained by PEOPLE.
The victim, who has not been identified, told police she was a juvenile at the time.
Fulwider now faces 30 counts of sexual battery by a person who is in a position of custodial authority to a person less than 18 years of age. He remains in the Orange County Jail without bond.
The 59-year-old is a well-known personality in Central Florida. He is co-founder and host of the weekly radio show ‘Friends Talking Faith’ and last year, along with his co-hosts, was a finalist for the Sentinel’s 2018 Central Floridian of the Year award. (The show has since gone on an indefinite hiatus following Fulwider’s arrest.)
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According to an arrest affidavit, most of the abuse happened on the church’s property, according to the Sentinel.
In the phone call, Fulwider told the victim he was the subject of an investigation led by the Florida Conference United Church of Christ for having a possible sexual relationship with a minor while he was a minister with First Congregational.
He told the victim if she was contacted she could say whatever she wanted but she could also say the allegations were false, adding, “that for me would be the best thing.”
Fulwider then told the victim she would be considered “quote the victim.”
“It would be as if I was a predator and you were victimized by me,” he said according to the documents, the Sentinel reports. “[That] was never ever where I was coming from.”
Police fear there could be more victims, but in the recorded phone call Fulwider allegedly told his victim she was the only one.
“They could line up every female related to the church and if everyone… except for one… told the absolute truth, they would have zero,” he said in the phone call, according to the affidavit.
“Do you mean me?” she asked.
“Well, yeah,” he said, according to the Sentinel.
Fulwider’s attorney could not be reached for comment Friday but denied the allegations against his client to the Sentinel, stating, “First, you are presuming a statement in a police report is true, which is not how our system of justice works…Second, time and time again, we see servants to the community attacked and reputations tarnished with baseless allegations — this must stop. Finally, and most importantly, there is no factual evidence to support any of these meritless claims.”
Anyone with knowledge regarding Fulwider or believes they have been a victim of his is urged to contact the Winter Park Police Department at (407) 599-3211.