BENSON, N.C. —
A former Sunday school teacher, Jonathan Young, from Johnston County was sentenced Monday to a minimum of 87 years in prison.
According to the district attorney’s office, the crimes involved three children, and most took place at Firstborn Baptist Church in Benson. The incidents occurred between 2003 and 2014, and the youngest victim was 7 years old when she was molested, investigators said.
At Young’s trial, the jury heard testimony from two additional witnesses who were sexually abused as young children.
Girls who grew up at the church alleged years of sexual abuse by Young, misconduct that some former church members say church leaders knew about but did nothing to stop.
One of Young’s victims, Brianna Hollard shared her story.
Holland went to Firstborn Baptist Church in Benson every Sunday growing up – and for two years, starting with she was just 9 years old – a man she looked up to was inappropriately touching her. She kept the secret for years.
“I was confused and very scared. On the Sunday School bus, he would just initially rub my leg on bus.
Then it got worse:
“It was kissing, rubbing, grinding, things like that in the (church) basement,” she says. “He had made multiple threats. ‘If you tell anyone, I will hurt you. I will hurt your family.'”
Four years after the abuse occurred, she got the courage to speak up. That was in 2017. One year later, Young was arrested and charged with sex crimes against three girls at the church, including Brianna Holland’s sister.
“He is getting what he deserves. I would tell him I do not forgive him. I do not owe him anything. He owes me everything. He took my entire childhood and most of my teenage years away from me. He took all of that. I know I’ll never get it. I hope he dies in prison,” she said.
Holland was raised in Firstborn Baptist Church. She said Young was like an uncle to her and the other children in the church. She admits to struggling through the years as she’s tried to move forward.
“It’s been very hard. I’ve had a lot of anxiety, eating disorders, depression. It’s been really, really hard,” she said. “In the last two years, I’ve done a lot of healing and a lot of finding my true self and learning to move on. Now I’m going to use it as a stepping stone to pursue my dream of being a therapist.”