A former Tunkhannock man who once spent more than 100 days in the Wyoming County jail because local authorities were concerned what he might do to young boys, was arrested two weeks ago in Waynesboro and faces charges of luring children into a motor vehicle.
It was Rev. Ronald Kline’s third such arrest in the past two years, and observers say the second one seems to have ended his tenure as a Baptist preacher.
Kline had joined the Cumberland Valley Baptist Church in Hagerstown, Md., in 2016, and a few months later became its pastor.
Cumberland Valley had been a member of the Blue Ridge Baptist Association, a cluster of nearly 40 Baptist congregations in the greater Hagerstown area.
But, if you visited the church’s website on the internet recently, you would have discovered the words, “Permanently Closed.”
Rev. Bruce Conley, BRBA’s director of missions, said Friday, that the church had its last service in December, and this past January the property was sold to another denomination.
He explained, “Its pastor was arrested twice for inappropriate behavior with young boys.”
Rev. Conley declined to say how the congregation took the news, nor whether Kline had been sanctioned by the larger denomination.
Multiple efforts to reach recent members of the former church have turned up empty.
Kline told a Hagerstown newspaper in 2016, that he had been living in the community for three years prior to becoming the church’s pastor.
The timeline suggests that as soon as Kline had completed his 109 days in the Wyoming County jail in November 2012, along with a year’s time on probation, he apparently moved south.
Wyoming County Chief Detective David Ide said his office had known about Kline for quite awhile, particularly after he moved back home around 2006 following an allegedly rocky relationship with another Baptist Church in the Annapolis, Md., area.
Ide said there were multiple reports that he was trying to get young boys to play basketball and football with him at South Abington Park in Clarks Summit, Christy Mathewson Park in Factoryville, Nordahl Park in Nicholson, and on the outdoor basketball court behind Tunkhannock Area Middle School. He noted that Kline even tried to show valuable baseball trading cards to kids at the Sunnyside Little League ballfields.
After pleading guilty in 2007 to summary offenses of disorderly conduct and harassment for an incident near the Lackawanna Trail Elementary Center in Factoryville, Kline was warned that he was “no longer permitted on the grounds of the school, nor are you permitted within the confines of Mathewson Park.”
However, according to court documents, Kline approached a 13-year-old boy on July 28, 2012, in the vicinity of Mathewson Park and the Trail school.
At the time, he noted to authorities there was no one around and he wanted to know if the boy would play ball with him.
The boy’s mother, who is also a Trail teacher, allegedly intervened and told Kline he was not going to play ball with her son.
The woman also had two other boys under her watchful eye and said she could tell from their expressions that they were afraid.
The teacher said she recognized the man wearing protective sports glasses, shorts, sneakers, and a t-shirt and carrying a basketball as being Kline.
Ide’s counterpart in Franklin County, Detective D.J. Rush, shared in a police complaint filed April 24, similar attire and circumstances involving two Waynesboro High School students, ages 14 and 15, who came forward after one of the boy’s mothers had seen a newspaper story circulating the Internet in January about a man who was facing similar charges in nearby Adams County.
One of the boys told Rush that being around Kline “made him nervous” because he wanted to know if they would like to go to different parks with him in Waynesboro like Memorial Park or Rotary Park.
One of the boys shared with authorities that Kline sometimes asked how tall they were and how much they weighed, and another shared that Kline had wrapped his arms around the boy’s waist and picked him up a couple of times.
It was a similar story 18 months earlier when State Trooper Quincy Cunningham charged Kline with corruption of minors and indecent assault for an incident that happened after Kline asked a young boy on July 11, 2018, if he’d like to play basketball in the Antrim Township park.
According to court records, Kline suggested the basketball net looked crooked and could he pick him up to fix it. The boy agreed, and a second time when Kline lifted him up, the child relayed that Kline “fondled his privates with his fingers.”
During the prosecution of the case, an indecent assault charge without the consent of another was replaced by the lone corruption of minors charge and Kline was sentenced to 50 days in jail followed by probation, for which Kline was on when he was arrested two weeks ago.
Court records show that Detective Rush interviewed Kline in February when he admitted “that he has regularly engaged kids of the age range of 12-15.”
Asked about why, Rush related that Kline said he has “an attraction of mentoring youth of that age but maybe now that he thought about it, maybe it was something else.”
Back in 2012, at Kline’s sentencing hearing in Wyoming County, the Press Examiner reported that Senior Judge Brendan Vanston told Kline, “Mess this up and you can get resentenced for a very long, long time.”
“I don’t plan to mess up,” Kline is reported to have said in response.
Detective Ide noted Friday, “Obviously, he never learned.”
Stacey Wyland, who teaches criminal justice at Keystone College, said Tuesday that “individuals classified as pedophiles, are fixated on young children or adolescent children and have a high rate of re-offending, with research suggesting at 15-25 percent, so the public has a right to have fears about pedophiles who live in their neighborhood.”
She added that “A majority of pedophiles are very good at manipulating children especially if there is a relationship with the child. Many pedophiles find it easy to groom children when they are in the position of a coach, teacher or clergyman because of the access to the child. Pedophilia is classified as a sexual orientation, which means it is not likely to change without interventions such as psychotherapy or medication; however as with most interventions, the person must also be willing to change.”
Kline remains in the Franklin County jail on $75,000 bail, with the latest charges bound over to county court in Waynesboro on May 20.