A Baptist preacher who once owned a wayward boys home that closed its doors 30 years ago in Walterboro amid accusations of physical abuse and kidnapping has died.
Mack Ford, 82, of Louisiana, was found dead in his home around 8 p.m. Wednesday, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported. He appeared to have died from natural causes, according to the news outlet, though an autopsy was scheduled.
Ford’s name gained notoriety locally in 1984 after two children who ran from his New Bethany Baptist Church Home for Boys in Walterboro complained to authorities of the conditions there.
Colleton County sheriff’s deputies raided the facility in May of that year and found evidence of a jail-like cell, handcuffings, beatings and spankings with a plastic pipe that had been referred to as “the rod of correction,” authorities reported at the time.
Allegations of mental, physical and sexual abuse also swarmed around Ford’s New Bethany Home for Girls in Louisiana until that facility closed in 2001, according to The Times-Picayune. Three women traveled to Louisiana in 2013 and reported that they had been sexually assaulted by Ford while living at the home, that outlet reported.
Criminal charges resulted from the allegations at both homes, but not against Ford.
In 1984, South Carolina authorities closed the Walterboro home after they found a 14-year-old sleeping in a windowless padlocked cell, where he had been for several days. Two employees there were charged with unlawful neglect of a child and kidnapping, and they eventually pleaded to a lesser charge of false imprisonment.
Two of the Walterboro home’s workers were charged with unlawful neglect of a child, conspiracy to commit unlawful neglect and kidnapping. A third employee, an 18-year-old in 1984, faced charges of conspiracy to commit unlawful neglect and kidnapping.
A Bienville Parish grand jury last year declined to indict Ford, according to The Times-Picayne, citing issues with Louisiana’s stature of limitations for the alleged crimes.
Prosecutors vowed to take a second look at the case prior to Ford’s death.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.