By Reggie Ellis
One of Exeter’s most prominent pastors and spiritual leaders was arrested Monday on suspicion of multiple counts of sexually abusing a young girl.
Alton “Gene” Dorrough, 62, was arrested by Tulare County Sheriff’s detectives after a female juvenile reported he had been sexually abusing her for several years, according to a news release issued by the Sheriff’s Department. Dorrough was booked on one charge of engaging in three or more acts of substantial sexual conduct with a child residing in the same home, four charges of oral copulation with a minor, two charges of forcible sex with a child under 14 and two charges of forcible sex with a child over 14. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of between 10 and 16 years in prison.
Dorrough is being held on $1.05 million bail at the Tulare County Main Jail. As of press time, no charges had been filed by the District Attorney’s Office.
The news of his arrest quickly sent shockwaves through the community of Exeter. The Dorrough family, including his wife Linda and daughter Kristina, moved to Exeter in 2005 to start a Celebrate Recovery program, a Christ-centered 12-step program for “hurts, habits and hang-ups.” The program started in March 2006 at the Church of God of Exeter. Gene and Linda became Recovery Pastors in March 2011. In 2010, the Dorroughs founded Mirror Image Ministries, Inc. The non-profit ministry was not affiliated with any church or denomination with the purpose of using only volunteers to support the common good of the community. That July, Dorrough purchased the “old yellow house” at the corner of Palm and E streets as a meeting place for Celebrate Recovery. It briefly served as a foster care home before reopening as a women’s transitional living facility last month.
Dorrough had been a volunteer with the Exeter Police Department since February 2008 and became a department chaplain in 2010. Exeter Police Chief Cliff Bush, who would not comment on the details of the investigation because it is being handled by the Sheriff’s Department, said the entire department was shocked.
“This is someone who had seemingly dedicated his life to make other lives better,” Bush said. “Any time someone like that is arrested it leaves me at a loss for words.”