Preacher convicted of raping 12-year-old girl in 1983, after recently recorded conversations


(SHELBY COUNTY D.A. NEWS RELEASE) – A 68-year-old preacher has been convicted of aggravated rape involving a 12-year-old girl in a series of assaults that occurred in 1983, the oldest rape case prosecuted by this office, said Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich.

Defendant Rufus Stevens Jr. was prosecuted under the law as it was at that time, meaning he faces 20 years to life in prison for what was then a Class X felony. There was no statute of limitations for the aggravated rape, which now would be classified as rape of a child.

The decades-old case did not involve discarded rape kits, but rather recently recorded telephone conversations in which Stevens admitted what he had done.

He is being held in the Shelby County Jail and will be sentenced Feb. 7 by Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward.

According to testimony, Stevens sexually assaulted the young victim on several occasions in 1983, usually in his car in Overton Park. On one occasion, the victim’s grandmother caught Stevens molesting her on a sofa and yelled at him to get off of the girl. When the girl told her mother about the incidents, she was not believed and was beaten with a belt or cord for lying.

In 2012, at age 48, the victim spoke on the phone with Stevens, who had remarried and was living in Bakersfield, Calif., studying to be a preacher. The victim told his new wife what he had done to her as a child and to be careful with her grandchildren around Stevens. He also made an admission to the victim’s mother, who died in 2013.

Stevens eventually admitted to his new wife that he had sexually assaulted the victim when she was a child, and repeated the admission to the victim herself in a recorded telephone conversation last year after she had reported the assaults to police.

The case was handled by Asst. Dist. Atty. Gavin Smith of the District Attorney’s Special Victims Unit prosecutes cases of child sexual abuse and severe physical abuse of child victims; rape and aggravated rape of adult victims, and abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults.

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