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A Delaware County pastor coerced an underage grocery clerk into a sexual relationship, DA says

Edward Lilly, the pastor of a Christian church in Chester, coerced the girl into having sex with him and tried to bribe her into silence, authorities said.

Edward Lilly was arrested Monday and charged with sexual abuse of a child, child pornography, and related offenses.
Edward Lilly was arrested Monday and charged with sexual abuse of a child, child pornography, and related offenses.Read moreAlexandru Cuznetov / MCT

A longtime pastor in Delaware County initiated a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, filmed their encounters, and attempted to buy her silence with gifts and bribes, prosecutors said Monday.

Edward Lilly, 70, the pastor of the Christian Church of Chester, has been charged with sexual abuse of a child, child pornography, and related offenses. He was released on $100,000 unsecured bail. Lilly’s attorney, Arik Benari, declined to comment Monday.

Lilly met the victim, now 19, as she worked as a cashier at a grocery store near his home, according to the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest. He started conversations with her in the checkout line, and later switched to text messages after obtaining her cell-phone number.

“Like every case of child abuse, this is about the abuse of power," Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said in a statement. “As difficult as this situation is, I applaud the victim for coming forward. As a minister, the defendant occupied a unique position of power and control. Given his brazen disregard for the law, and for his family and his community, it is critical that he face legal consequences for his actions.”

Lilly has been pastor of the church since 1993, when it was known as the White Rock Christian Church, according to a history he provided to the website Old Chester.

The house of worship, located on Third Street near Franklin, was founded in 1949 as a Baptist church.

During his conversations with the victim, Lilly repeatedly told her he was attracted to her and asked if her could kiss her, the affidavit said. When the girl told him she was on her high school’s track team and would often run in Henry Johnson Park in Trainer, Lilly made a plan to meet her in the park and run with her.

Lilly then took the teen into a secluded area, had sex with her and filmed the act using his cell phone, the affidavit said. For the next several months, the two continued to have sexual encounters at the park, as well as in hotel rooms and a recreational vehicle he owned, the victim told investigators.

During their relationship, Lilly paid the teen $2,000 and bought her a cell phone, the affidavit said. She told police she interpreted these gifts as an attempt by Lilly to “keep her from telling anyone about the sexual relationship."

County detectives served a search warrant on Lilly’s home in August and recovered laptops, cell phones and other devices that contained multiple videos and still images of Lilly having sex with the victim.

Lilly is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing in the case on Nov. 10.