3 states investigate minister for secret videos

Published 3:17 pm Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Authorities in three states are investigating a traveling Baptist minister they say is suspected of making secret videos of women in bathrooms.

Sam “Sammy” Nuckolls, 33, has been charged with felony counts of voyeurism in Mississippi and Arkansas and authorities in Texas also are investigating.

Nuckolls’ lawyer, Ronald Michael, was in court Tuesday and didn’t immediately respond to a message. A message left at listing for Nuckolls in Germantown, Tenn., wasn’t immediately returned.

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Desoto County, Miss., prosecutor Steven Jubera said Nuckolls was indicted there Feb. 14 for recording 13 women at his home in Olive Branch, near Memphis, Tenn. Jubera said the women were Nuckolls’ friends or acquaintances and ranged in age from 17 to 26. Jubera declined to describe exactly how the videos were taken for fear of compromising the investigation and rules of court conduct.

Jubera described Nuckolls as a traveling evangelist and contract pastor, ministering at religious functions in several states.

Nuckolls had worked as a pastor for LifeWay Christian Resources, a Nashville, Tenn., organization that runs the popular Centrifuge youth camps affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, according to Lifeway’s website.

LifeWay officials did not immediately respond to messages, but a statement on the organization’s website said Nuckolls is no longer a part of its programs. The statement said investigations have not turned up any evidence that Nuckolls taped people at LifeWay events, where he was a camp pastor from 2003 to 2006 and a contract pastor from 2007 to 2011.

“Because of current legal accusations, LifeWay will not be using Nuckolls, and he has been relieved of all current speaking commitments,” said the website statement.

Nuckolls first drew scrutiny in Arkansas in October 2011 and the investigation spread to other states.

Gosnell, Ark., Assistant Police Chief Darrell Watkins said Nuckolls was charged on Oct. 25 with one count of voyeurism when he was in town for a religious gathering. A woman called police that day after finding a camera that looked like a writing pen in her bathroom at home, according to Watkins. Nuckolls was staying with the woman and her family.

Arkansas officials reviewed images on Nuckolls’ computer, charged him and handed their findings over to Mississippi authorities.

Watkins said police are investigating the possibility that two other women may have been taped in Arkansas, though not in Gosnell, which is about t 60 miles northwest of Memphis, Tenn.

Police in Seymour, Texas, said they turned over the findings of their investigation to the district attorney’s office, and referred questions to prosecutors. The district attorney did not immediately respond to a message.

Jubera, the north Mississippi prosecutor, said his jurisdiction probably would be the first to prosecute Nuckolls. The trial is scheduled June 25, and a pretrial hearing is set for March 31. If convicted, Nuckolls faces up to five years on each count in Mississippi and would have to register as a sex offender.

“My intention is to take him to trial and resolve this case as quickly as possible,” Jubera said. “Based on the length of time this went on, the sophistication of his acts, it was clearly not accidental.  We intend prosecute this aggressively.”

Jubera said the women in Mississippi were recorded from late 2006 or early 2007 until October 2011, when Nuckolls was arrested in Arkansas.