Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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December 31, 2012

Top 10 Stories of 2012

2012 Elections chosen as top story of the year

(Continued)

Corsicana — No. 8: Graves of 26 unknowns moved

In January 2012, the graves of 25 people who are believed to have been former slaves or their descendants, were moved from the shores of Richland Chambers Reservoir to the evidence room of the Corsicana Police Department.

The small cemetery of mostly children and babies had been revealed by a drought in 2009 that caused the lake’s shore to recede. But as rains returned, the waterline threatened to reclaim the site, and state archeologists rushed to remove the bones.

In late May, the bodies were reinterred in Woodland Memorial Cemetery in Corsicana. Markers were added to the graves in December 2012. Historical markers are expected to be added in 2013.

In order to allow the burial of the remains in Woodland, the city had to have the cemetery approved as a perpetual care site in district court. Local residents who recalled the former Montgomery Hill community, formerly a pre-Civil War plantation, recalled some of the African American families who lived there.

Amateur history and genealogy researchers believe that their descendents moved to Corsicana and are buried in Woodland.

— Janet Jacobs

No. 9 — Youth minister pleads in sex charge

The community was rocked by a scandal involving the youth minister of a local church after allegations of an improper sexual relationship with a young girl surfaced.

Gary Welch, 42, youth minister at Northside Baptist Church in Corsicana, was arrested on March 19 on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

More charges were added on March 24 in connection with the case, and on March 26 the church announced it had fired Welch from his post.

Welch was indicted on March 28, and three weeks later, on April 14, agreed to a plea bargain with the Navarro County District Attorney’s office, sentenced to 55 years in prison.

District Attorney R. Lowell Thompson said Welch had “groomed” his victim and taken advantage of her age and his position of authority. The victim, a 16-year-old female, said the assaults by Welch dated back to 2009.

Thompson also spoke out on rumors circulating on social media blaming the victim.

“She was not at fault,” Thompson said. “I want to make sure the public knows that Mr. Welch gave a full confession in this case, and that in no way, was the victim at fault.”

Welch had been with the church for five years, and was married with two children. He’d previously served congregations in Palmer and Ennis.

Welch will not be eligible for parole until the age of 70.

— Bob Belcher

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