Friday, February 25, 2011

Minister charged
‘Admired, respected' Cobb minister facing child porn chargesShareThisPrint E-mail .By Christian Boone

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

If you attended a Methodist church in north Georgia anytime over the last 40 years, odds are you came across Albert Turnell, Jr.

Facebook Albert Turnell Jr., retired Cobb minister charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.

."I don't know of any man in the United Methodist North Georgia district more admired, more respected," said Dr. Joe Peabody, pastor of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in east Cobb.

Federal agents, working with the GBI and Smyrna police, arrested Turnell, 71, Thursday morning at his home, charging the pastor with possessing and distributing child pornography.

"It's just inconceivable," Peabody, who's known Turnell some 25 years, told the AJC Thursday. "It's hard to wrap your mind around this."

The longtime minister and grandfather led churches in Cobb, Colbert, Calhoun and Dalton before being appointed a district superintendent of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. The recently retired father of four had been battling throat cancer and recently disclosed that he had completed radiation treatments.

"I am looking forward to slowly getting my taste and voice back," Turnell wrote on his Facebook page.

Dozens of supporters left notes of encouragement on Turnell's page following news of his arrest. A fellow minister wrote, "You are still my pastor and always will be."

Peabody told the AJC that Turnell was an accessible and reassuring presence within the church.

"The word I'd use to describe him is genuine," he said. "He's just a genuine person."

Smyrna First United Methodist church member Julie Atkinson said she refuses to believe the charges brought against her former pastor, who she's known since childhood.

"He has always been gentle and loving and kind and supportive," Atkinson told the AJC. "I have never seen him act any way but professionally and out of love to anyone."

According to an online bio, Turnell received the pastoral call while a sophomore in college. The Madison native received his master's of divinity from Emory University.

Bond was set at $50,000 for Turnell during his first court appearance Thursday, the U.S. District Attorney's Office said. The conditions of his release mandate electronic monitoring and home confinement and he's no longer allowed to use a personal computer.

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