A 40-year-old child sex abuse case in South Carolina has resulted in the arrest of a youth pastor in Elmore, Alabama. The suspect is also accused of sexually abusing a minor while living in Baldwin County in 1974. The alleged victim in that case reached out to Robertsdale Police last October and an investigation was started. Two other victims were identified, living in South Carolina and authorities there are now pursuing charges.
Investigators believe 63-year-old Peter William Cooper sexually abused at least three young girls in Baldwin County and two South Carolina counties between 1974 and 1976. Investigators caught up with Cooper last week in Elmore County, Alabama and was extradited back to Spartanburg, South Carolina to face charges there on one of those cases. It all began with the first alleged victim contacting Robertsdale Police.
“Once we had this case put together, we consulted with the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office and they researched it and unfortunately found that we could not prosecute this case because of the laws being different and the statute of limitations at that time,” explained Lt. Rex Bishop with Robertsdale Police.
South Carolina had no statute of limitations law in effect in 1976 when the alleged assault happened there. Police said Cooper was a youth intern pastor at a church there and the offense happened at the victim’s home during a bible study. Investigators said Cooper admitted he apologized to the women after they found and confronted him through social media, but that he couldn’t remember all the details of the encounters.
Robertsdale Police said Cooper was living there in 1974 and was volunteering as a youth minister at a local church. In the Baldwin County case, investigators said the alleged assault was not associated with the church or through his volunteer work there. Investigators said it’s rare a case as old as this one finds resolution and commend the victim for coming forward more than four decades later.
“Once she found and once she decided she had the courage to come forward, and she started looking into social media events and found that he was still involved with activities around children, it became very important to her to make sure that she protected anyone else from becoming a victim,” Bishop said.
Investigators are hoping that if there are any other alleged victims of Peter Cooper, they will now come forward. For now, Cooper is being charged for Lewd Act on a Minor in South Carolina since that was the applicable law in 1976. Alabama’s laws have since changed and there is no longer a statute of limitations on sex crimes here.