The 31-year-old music director of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal, an influential West Baltimore church, was in jail yesterday on charges that he raped and abused a 12-year-old female parishioner during three encounters, city police and church officials said.
Timothy D. Price III of Owings Mills has been held in lieu of $1 million bail at Baltimore's Central Booking and Intake Center since he was arrested Wednesday, according to court records. He was charged with second-degree rape, assault, child abuse and multiple sex offenses.
"For everybody involved, it is a great tragedy," said the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, the church's pastor. "He had a good reputation, as far as I was aware. ... The people loved him."
Price and the girl had sexual encounters on three occasions in his car between early November and January, according to police charging documents. The meetings were all off church property, two in a West Baltimore alley and one in a parking lot near Druid Hill Park, the documents say.
The encounters occurred after Price obtained permission from the girl's mother to take her to an outreach center and home from church Bible study and a dance class, the documents say.
Price confessed to having sex with the girl, who is now 13, according to the charging documents.
Bethel AME Church has more than 17,000 registered members and a national reputation. Many of those who attend services on Druid Hill Avenue in Upton commute from surrounding counties.
A number of the city's top leaders, including Mayor Sheila Dixon and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, are Bethel members. Former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is Reid's stepbrother, and Sunday services are frequent stops for candidates for city and statewide office.
In an interview yesterday, Reid called Price's arrest "a real shock."
He said his church had not received any prior written or oral complaints about Price, whose full-time job was leading musical programs at the church.
"It's a great tragedy for the child and the child's family," Reid said.
The last time he saw Price was during services this week for Ash Wednesday, Reid said. Later that day, he said, he got a phone call from someone who said Price had been arrested.
Reid said Price was hired in 2006 after the church went through a national recruitment process for a new music director. He said Price's references were checked and that he came from a church in Houston. He has a wife and a 1-year-old daughter, Reid said.
"It's a very important and responsible position," Reid said. "He is in contact with all members of the church because of the position he's in."
According to the charging documents, the girl admitted to her mother in January that she had had sex with Price on three occasions. In interviews with detectives, the girl said she began communicating with Price through text messages and cellular phone calls in June or July, police said.
The girl also described keeping a written journal in which she described her encounters with Price in detail, the documents say. Two encounters occurred in an alley in the 300 block of Laurens St. and the other in a parking lot near Druid Hill Park, the documents say.
Before all three encounters, Price asked permission from the girl's mother to take her from the church to her home or to a nearby outreach center, the documents say.
When he confessed to police, he said he wanted to call the girl's mother and tell her what happened, "but he did not know how," the documents say.
Price was being represented by the public defender's office, which declined to comment yesterday. A message left on his home phone was not returned.
Price, who lives in the 10800 block of Sherwood Hill Road, is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing March 4, court records show.
Before coming to Baltimore in 2006, Price spent three years with Harvest Time Church in Houston, where he was director of the fine-arts ministry.
In 2005, he and the founder of the church, Bishop Shelton Bady, released The Voices of Harvest, a compact disc billed as music for "contemporary worship and urban church."
A short biographical sketch about Price on a Web site that sells the CD describes him as a "sought out" and "influential" man who has been "chosen to change the face of evangelism."
"Be on the lookout for this man as he Wins Souls, Meet Needs, Heal Hurts, and Birth Visions for the glory of God!" the Web site says.
Bady and other officials with his church could not be reached for comment.
When Bethel AME was looking for a new music director, Reid said, Price emerged as the "best candidate."
He took over the church's music and arts ministry and, in October, led a church choir in a gospel music competition at Morgan State University that was sponsored by UniSun, an African-American lifestyle publication of The Sun. The Bethel AME Church Outreach of Love Choir won.
Price was among several choir directors who spoke during a question-and-answer session with people who attended the gospel celebration at Morgan's Murphy Fine Arts Center. He said he had been involved with music and ministry for 25 years, nearly "all my life."
"This is how I live," he said during the event, which The Sun videotaped. "This is why I live. I believe it is to touch the lives, the hearts of people, and to bring them back to the heart of God."
Sun reporter Liz F. Kay contributed to this article.