EASTON - The pastor of a Cambridge church will stand trial on charges of sexually abusing two girls between August and February.
The Rev. Andrew Roy Tilghman, 32, was ordered to stand trial in circuit court on charges of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual offense.
Tilghman, pastor of the United Missionary Baptist Church, on Phillips Street in Cambridge, also faces nine counts each of second-degree rape, second-degree assault, child abuse and third- and fourth-degree sexual offense and two counts of second-degree sexual offense.
His wife, Great Elizabeth Tilghman, 33, was ordered to stand trial on charges of child abuse and second-degree assault.
Police were called to the Easton Elementary School on March 27 after a student came to school with visible bruises, according to charging papers.
During preliminary hearings Monday morning in district court, Easton Police Det. Brandon Bobbick said a 10-year-old girl told police and a Department of Social Services worker that Mrs. Tilghman had hit her at least five times with a leather belt on the legs, arms and buttocks.
While officials were questioning the girl about the alleged physical abuse, she also told them that Rev. Tilghman had allegedly sexually abused her and her sister numerous times between August 1999 and February 2000.
Both girls described the alleged molestation to police, according to charging papers. At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing in Mrs. Tilghman's case, defense lawyer Anthony Covington argued that the child abuse charge did not apply.
"We're dealing essentially with an excessive discipline case," he argued, noting that Maryland parents still have the privilege of using corporal punishment on their children.
District Court Judge William H. Adkins III acknowledged that parents in Maryland do have the right of corporal punishment.
"These are always difficult cases," Adkins said. "But it is a factual issue for the finder of fact. Whether it goes beyond discipline and into child abuse is for the finder of fact."
As a result, he ordered the charges against Mrs. Tilghman to be forwarded to circuit court for trial.
At the conclusion of the hearing in Rev. Tilghman's case, Covington argued that the evidence didn't support the first-degree rape or second-degree rape charges.
"I don't believe what the detective has testified to rises to that level," Covington argued.
However, Adkins ruled that the state had met the burden of proof for probable cause and forwarded the case to circuit court for trial.
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