MANCHESTER, NH – A Greenfield man charged with sexually assaulting a girl when he was a pastor in a start-up church is facing 20 new charges related to the alleged abuse.
Christopher D. Lawton, 43, of Francestown Road, allegedly assaulted the girl while he was her pastor between 2015 and 2016. He was indicted in October in the Hillsborough Superior Court-North in Manchester.
The grand jury handed up scores of new indictments made public this week, charging Lawton with aggravated felonious sexual assault with special enhancement because he allegedly used his position as her pastor to coerce the alleged victim. Each count carries a 10- to 20-year term in prison if he is convicted.
The charges allege that the abuse took place in Francestown, Greenfield, and Peterborough, according to the indictments. No affidavit has been made available in the case, and details are scant.
Lawton tried to start a church in Greenfield around 2015, renting the town’s historic Meeting House for his services He reportedly had a small flock of 20 to 30 people before a domestic violence arrest in 2015.
Greenfield Police Chief Brian Giammarino has said that the 2015 arrest put Lawton and the sexual abuse allegations on law enforcement radar. During that first investigation, however, the alleged victim denied there was anything untoward in the relationship with “Pastor Lawton,” Giammarino said. Two years later, the victim was able to come forward and report the alleged sexual abuse, Giammarino said.
Lawton is not being held and is due in court in March for a dispositional conference.