An assistant pastor at a Roane County church is accused of sexually abusing girls age 12 and 17 in various settings including the church, records show.

J. Hugh McDowell, 62, of Niota, was being held Monday in the Roane County Jail on charges that include rape of a child, continuous sexual abuse of a child  and sexual battery by an authority figure, according to records.

He was taken into custody Oct. 27, according to documents.

The Roane County Sheriff's Office began investigating in June. McDowell was assistant pastor at the time at Spoken Word Ministry Church on River Road in Ten Mile.

He also had formerly been in "law enforcement and other first responder positions in Sweetwater," according to a Roane County incident report.

The document states that a state Department of Children's Services investigator alerted the Sheriff's Office on June 28 about allegations that the girls were being abused. Some of the sexual contact, which ranged from fondling to forced oral sex to possibly intercourse, was alleged to have occurred at the church.

It wasn't clear how long the alleged abuse may have gone on. It possibly could have been as recently as the week before the investigator called, according to the incident report.

"(The investigator) also advised that the (victims')  family had confronted Mr. McDowell over the accusations. She advised that the family told her that he has threatened their lives," the report states.

Also, according to the document, "There have supposedly been other incidents of sexual assault that have occurred at the McDowell residence (in Niota)."