Former youth pastor accused of child sex crimes in SC in 1970s died in detention center, coroner confirms

State - Regional

Peter William Cooper (photo provided by WSPA)

SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – The Spartanburg County Coroner’s Office confirmed that a former youth intern pastor from Alabama, accused of sexually abusing two minors back in 1976, died in the Spartanburg County Detention Center on Sunday.

According to Coroner Rusty Clevenger, Peter William Cooper, 64, of Elmore, Ala., was found unresponsive in the detention center and was later pronounced dead early Sunday morning.

Clevenger said Cooper had been moved to the medical pod earlier due to medical complaints.

According to Clevenger, there did not appear to be signs of foul play in his death.

News13’s sister station WSPA reported back in February that Cooper was arrested in Alabama and extradited back to Spartanburg County after a magistrate approved a warrant charging him with a lewd act on a minor, which was the applicable law in 1976.

The charge stemmed from investigators with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office receiving a call from a Robertsdale Police Department investigators in Alabama who said they had received information from a Spartanburg County resident who said she was the victim of sexual abuse in Spartanburg County back in the 1970s.

Loana Cooper Benton identified herself to 7News as the accuser who went to police in Alabama. Benton told us that Cooper was her uncle and that he molested her in Alabama when she was four years old.

In an incident report, one victim — who was under the age of 14 — said Cooper grabbed her in an inappropriate area while playing piano at a Bible study in her home located in Spartanburg County.

Additional witnesses confirmed the events and details of the incident, and other victims came forward who said similar acts happened to them as children.

An investigation revealed that Cooper was a youth intern pastor at Central Church of Christ in Spartanburg in 1976 and that the offense happened at the home of one of the victims during a Bible study.

According to the release, Spartanburg County investigators learned that Cooper was primarily employed by churches in Alabama after a short time in Spartanburg County.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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