Last Monday Morning, Luke Cunningham, 41, appeared before the 140th District Court Judge Douglas Freitag to request a bond reduction.

The former youth pastor is in the Lubbock County Detention Center charged with several counts of sexual assault of a minor and aggravated sexual assault. His bond is set at $500,000.

In Monday’s hearing, Cunningham’s attorney, Michael King, requested the judge lower his bond to $100,000.

Lubbock County Assistant District Attorney Cassie Graham argued against the motion and told the judge Cunningham sexually violently abused children. She said as Cunningham sexually assaulted the victims, he slapped them and strangled them to the point of losing consciousness.

Graham also stated that Cunningham made sure the alleged victims attended international and out-of-state church trips, including one to Guatemala. She pointed out one photo shows Cunningham with his hands close to the breasts of both victims.

The alleged victims reportedly told law enforcement they thought they were in a relationship with Cunningham; they both stated he promised to leave his wife for them when they turned 18.

Graham claimed Cunningham also told the alleged victims what to say if they were ever questioned about the sexual abuse. Cunningham, according to the ADA’s statement, reportedly told them to admit that they shared inappropriate texts, made out, and he touched their breasts one time. Graham said Cunningham admitted to these acts.

Graham told the judge others have corroborated allegations of Cunningham’s inappropriate behavior and violence.

Another witness recalled a church camp in New Mexico, where Cunningham was told it was inappropriate for 16-year-olds to sleep on his lap, according to Graham.

In addition, there is reportedly evidence Cunningham tried to delete text threads with the alleged victims.

Graham said one person told law enforcement Cunningham would become angry if girls in the youth group did not give him attention. On one occasion, he is accused of pushing someone into a vending machine and then onto the ground.

Detective Justin Wood with the Lubbock Police Department tolls the stand and says Cunningham used to work at Agape Baptist Church in Fort Worth and North Fort Worth Baptist Church. Agape Baptist Church has since closed.

Graham said during the investigation, they located an alleged victim in Dallas County who said Cunningham began grooming her in 2013.

Wood stated he spoke with North Fort Worth Baptist Church staff, who said misconduct allegations were made during Cunningham’s time there. Staff reportedly told law enforcement they confronted Cunningham about the allegations.

During that conversation, Cunningham reportedly resigned after telling staff he would not abide by the policy that prohibited him from being alone with a student. Wood said Cunningham then moved to Lubbock.

KCBD confirmed that Cunningham took a student minister job at Lubbock’s Turning Point Community Church in 2016.

In 2019, Wood said a student’s parents became aware of an inappropriate relationship between their daughter and Cunningham. Wood said the parents told Cunningham they would not report his behavior if he left the ministry.

Cunningham reportedly left the church within several months.

Law enforcement was not made aware of that allegation until 2021, when the victim reported the sexual abuse to the police. Wood said that, at that point, Cunningham worked as a real estate agent.

The Lubbock Police Department opened an investigation and notified the Lubbock County District Attorney’s Office of the inquiry in 2022; however, no arrests were subsequently made.

Wood said Cunningham and his family then moved to Granbury, where he worked as a student minister at Lakeside Baptist Church. The KCBD investigation team contacted Lakeside’s Senior Pastor, Mark Forrest, to find out if they were notified of any allegations against Cunningham.

Forrest said Cunningham passed a criminal background check, and Turning Point’s executive pastor provided a positive reference.

Wood said as Lakeside prepared for sexual abuse training, they became aware of the allegations made in Lubbock against Cunningham. When church leadership subsequently questioned Cunningham about the allegations, he reportedly admitted to some level of abuse.

Lakeside notified authorities and terminated Cunningham. Staff at Lakeside also notified Turning Point of the allegations against Cunninghan. Wood said at this point, another sexual abuse victim in Lubbock came forward.

As Lubbock police investigated, Wood said Cunningham’s family put their home in Granbury on the market.

Wood said they tried to locate Cunningham, but the extended family members they contacted were not helpful. The U.S. Marshall’s office used a camera system to look for Cunningham’s license plate, which they found in Lubbock.

The Cunningham family had rented a home in Shallowater under his wife’s name. A U.S. marshal met Cunningham at that rental property and took him into custody without incidents.

King, Cunningham’s attorney, re-iterated that Cunningham was cooperative during his arrest and had been easy to locate for years since his information was posted to Lakeside’s website.

King also said if the District Attorney’s office thought Cunningham was a danger, they could have acted after they learned of the investigation in 2022. King said Cunningham should not have been difficult to locate since his family was renting a home in Shallowater under his wife’s name.

KCBD spoke with King after Monday’s hearing. He said they want the judge to set the bond reasonably.

KCBD and KGNC will provide an update when the judge decides on the bond reduction request.

As of right now, Turning Point Community Church sent KCBD the following statement:

“We feel a profound responsibility to address the details shared during this morning’s bond hearing.

First and foremost, we at both KGNC and KCBD want to express our unwavering support for the victims. We stand with those affected and affirm our commitment to justice. This case has profoundly impacted many within our faith family and the community. We want to acknowledge the pain, confusion, and hurt caused.

This news may trigger many emotions, including anger, sadness, and betrayal. It is natural to feel this way, and we want to assure you that it is okay to grieve, question, and seek support. Your feelings on this particular subject are valid.

We continue cooperating fully with the police investigation and are committed to transparency and accountability. We are thankful to the Lubbock Police Department for its thorough investigation. We encourage anyone with any information to contact the Lubbock Police Department directly.” 

Story By Nathan M.