The Beaufort pastor accused of burglary and harassment by police said he plans to turn himself in Monday morning, but that the charges filed against him are "off the wall."
TLC Ministries pastor Ronald Von Fricken said he plans to turn himself in Monday after a warrant for his arrest was issued last week by Beaufort police on charges of second-degree burglary, second degree-harassment and unlawful interception of an oral communication. Von Fricken said he was on vacation in New York when the charges were filed.
The charges allege that he harassed a Beaufort woman for nearly three months and placed tracking devices on her property to keep tabs on her, according to a report from the Beaufort Police Department.
Von Fricken said Sunday that he was in a relationship with the woman for nearly three years. Von Fricken said the woman also was an employee of TLC Ministries, handling the finances and the operation of the ministry's thrift store as an executive administrator.
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When the woman first moved to Beaufort, she lived with his parents, he said.
He added that as a form of salary, he paid most of her expenses, including rent, food, phone bills and trips to the Atlanta area to see her children.
Von Fricken said he paid the bills for the woman through last month. He also said he was with the woman in mid-May, well past the April 11 date when the harassment was alleged to have started.
The length of their relationship and concerns over the company the woman kept were the catalyst for his alleged harassment, because he believed the woman's friends were driving the two apart, he said.
"I didn't see it as her doing this, but the people around her doing this," he said.
At one point, those concerns led him to follow the woman to the police department, where he believed she went to pay a speeding ticket. Von Fricken said he went there to see who she was with and had no idea she was actually at the department to file a report against him.
Von Fricken acknowledged that the course of action he took may not have been the most appropriate one, but said it was not done with malicious intent.
"I did this with the best intentions, but it got turned around," he said. "I did not intend for it to be what it became. I did it the wrong way, but I only did it out of the love I have for her and the concern I have for her behavior."
Lamika Thomas, a friend of Von Fricken's and the woman, said said the charges filed against Von Fricken were "outrageous."
"It's a personal issue between two people with a long-term, intimate relationship," she said. "It's been made out to seem like there's more there when there isn't. It may not sound the prettiest, but that's the truth."
Thomas said that the tracking device Von Fricken is alleged to have used is an iPhone he bought for the woman with a tracking application installed, one Thomas herself uses as a precaution if her phone is stolen. She added that Von Fricken had a key for the woman's home and routinely brought her food, which Von Fricken confirmed.
"You can't burglarize a house you have a key for," she said.
Since the charges were filed, Von Fricken has turned over control of the ministry, which helps men, some homeless, overcome addictions and find religion. Von Fricken said he was "not in a position to lead them" with the charges pending.
In addition, he plans on checking into a "restoration facility" owned by a friend after he turns himself in, unless his bond setting would prevent that.
"I am emotionally attached to her, and that's a fact," he said. "I have to break that attachment and continue to serve God correctly."
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.