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Former Winlock pastor facing multiple rape charges

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A former Winlock youth pastor has been accused of raping one of his previous students and is expected to be arraigned on four charges of second-degree child rape this Thursday.

Michael D. Whitson, 51, currently of Vancouver, appeared in court Sept. 24 for a preliminary appearance where he was informed of his arraignment date and released on $25,000 bond.

An investigation into Whitson’s alleged offences began when a 23-year-old man, formerly of Winlock, came forward and told investigators last October Whitson had engaged in a sexual relationship with him when he was 12 and 13 years old. At the time, Whitson had been employed as a youth pastor with the Winlock Assembly of God.

Court documents filed Sept. 6 state the victim was a frequent attendee of youth events held at Whitson’s home and would also visit Whitson on his own, as he said he was having trouble with his parents at the time. Whitson then reportedly coerced the youth into a sexual relationship, stating he wanted to convince the boy he was gay and the two were in love, according to the victim.

Their relationship continued for more than a year until the victim moved out of the area, and authorities had not been informed of the crime until last year, which Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said is not an unusual timeline in cases of sexual assault.

Whitson has previously served time for sex crimes, having pleading guilty in 2008 to two counts of third-degree assault of a child with sexual motivation. At the time he served 90 days of a suspended sentence. It has not been indicated by the court if these crimes stemmed also from his employment as a pastor.

The charges against Whitson carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

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