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September 2, 2009
A former assistant dean at Regent University’s law school and his wife pleaded guilty today in Virginia Beach Circuit Court to child sex abuse charges.
Stephen Lee McPherson, 40, and Melina Ann McPherson, 37, both of Chesapeake, entered plea agreements during separate hearings today to charges of taking indecent liberties. The charges stemmed from incidents between 1996 and 2000, when the McPhersons served as house parents for three sisters at Hope Haven Children’s Home on North Landing Road. Hope Haven is a Christian-based shelter run by Union Mission Ministries, which was directed by Stephen McPherson’s grandfather, the late Rev. Ted Bashford.
Court records show Stephen McPherson repeatedly molested two of the sisters under his supervision and manipulated them by citing Bible verses that he said justified the abuse. Melina McPherson engaged in sexual acts with the third sister, cited Bible verses to justify her actions and told the victim that “they had a special relationship,” according to court records.
Stephen McPherson already is serving time on related sex abuse charges. He pleaded guilty in January to sexually abusing the two girls in Chesapeake. The McPhersons moved to Chesapeake in 2000 and took the three sisters there after adopting them, records show.
He was ordered to serve 16 years in prison after pleading guilty to forcible sodomy and object sexual penetration charges.
As part of the plea agreement brokered by his attorney, Lawrence Woodward Jr., and Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Bryant, Stephen McPherson agreed to serve three years in prison in exchange for pleading guilty.
Melina McPherson agreed to serve 40 days in exchange for pleading guilty. Bryant said he agreed to that term because the victim did not want to see McPherson jailed, largely because the McPhersons have two young sons.
Circuit Judge A. Joseph Canada Jr. accepted the guilty pleas but delayed a ruling on whether to accept the plea agreement. He set a Sept. 16 sentencing hearing for Stephen McPherson.
He also revoked Melina McPherson’s bond and ordered that she be jailed pending an Oct. 7 sentencing hearing. “I’m going to honor the plea agreement,” the judge said, “but I think she ought to be in jail right now.”