Charges dropped against Columbia youth minister accused of assaulting teen

(Columbia) February 21, 2006 - Charges have been dropped against a youth minister at Columbia's First Baptist Church. He was accused of assaulting a teenager last August.

Georgetown County investigators said Kenneth Atkinson III, also known as "Tripp," was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl. Investigators said the alleged rape happened in 2002 while Atkinson was a youth pastor at Pawleys Island Community Church. They said Atkinson assaulted the girl in his apartment.

The girl, now 17, came forward last August. At the time, she said Atkinson told her not to tell anyone, and that Atkinson said if she did, he would hurt her sister, whom Atkinson had once dated. Then, investigators say the girl told a few relatives, who encouraged her to come forward.

Atkinson also worked as a Georgetown County reserve deputy. According to a church newsletter on the internet, Atkinson came to First Baptist in Columbia to work as a student minister in April, 2004. He is married, and originally from Sumter.

Updated 10:11am by Bryce Mursch