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Colleton County pastor accused of sexually assaulting women, children dies in hospice care

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Ralph Gordon Stair during one of his court appearances. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

WALTERBORO — Colleton County preacher Ralph Stair, who was accused of sexually assaulting multiple women and children at his Overcomer Ministry compound, died April 4 at age 87.

Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey said Stair died shortly after 12 a.m. at his home. He had been under hospice care and died naturally of old age, Harvey said.

Stair formed Overcomer Ministry in Canadys in the early 1980s. The commune sits on 130 acres of land where several dozen residents live and worship after giving all their "worldly goods and monies to the Lord," according to its brochure. Many were attracted by Stair's radio sermons which were broadcast around the world.

At the time of Stair's death, he was awaiting trial on charges including criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, burglary and assault. He was arrested in December 2017, then released on a $750,000 bond a month later. As conditions of his 2018 release, he was not allowed to leave the property and was electronically monitored.

Multiple women told state and federal authorities that Stair groped, harassed and raped them. Some were minors when his advances started they told investigators.

The investigation began in October 2017 after officials were notified of videos published on YouTube. One video showed Stair touching a 12-year-old girl’s breast during a worship service and subsequently saying, “I’m gonna touch them things till nobody else can touch them.”

In the other video, a 16-year-old girl accused Stair of sexually assaulting her over the course of five months that year.

Agents from the State Law Enforcement Division, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security later joined the probe as the list of potential victims grew, authorities said.

Four women interviewed by The Post and Courier in 2017 described incidents ranging from groping to rape and occurred in Overcomer Ministry’s radio room, dining hall and mobile homes on the rural property tucked off S.C. Highway 61.

The women said Stair’s sexual contact with them began with hugging — sometimes in private and other times in front of members of the congregation — and later escalated. The preacher and self-proclaimed “Last Day Prophet of God” reportedly told several women the alleged sexual acts were “God’s will.”

They were threatened with eviction from the commune if they did not comply, the women said.

In 2002, Stair faced similar charges of criminal sexual conduct after two young women at Overcomer Ministry said he raped them on several occasions. Stair denied the accusations, later pleading guilty to lesser counts of misdemeanor assault and battery. He was sentenced to time-served.

After his release from custody in 2018, Stair was back on his radio show within a few months, The Post and Courier reported at the time.

Gregory Yee contributed to this report.

Reach Fleming Smith at 843-937-5591. Follow her on Twitter at @MFlemingSmith.

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