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Couple with Brown County ties charged with multiple sex crimes
Updated on: 02.27.14

COLUMBUS -- A Morgantown minister and his wife, charged with multiple felony counts involving child molestation, were arrested in Columbus after a five-hour search, police said.

The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department had been tipped off Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 25 that the Rev. Jonathan Harness, 43, and his wife, Buffy Harness, 44, might be in the Columbus area, Chief Deputy Maj. Todd Noblitt said.

Morgan County authorities warned that Buffy Harness and the couple’s two children, believed to be in their teens, might be in danger, Noblitt said.

Police also were warned the minister might try to provoke law enforcement into killing him, Noblitt said.

Deputies searched areas of both southern and northern Bartholomew County, as well as southern Johnson County, but were unable to find the couple’s 2002 Chevrolet Silverado, Noblitt said. Also involved in the search were officers from Morgan County, the Indiana State Police and the U.S. Marshal’s Service, Noblitt said.

While most searchers were in the Taylorsville area, Sgt. Jim Green Jr. of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department spotted the couple sitting in their parked vehicle outside the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center on Jonathan Moore Pike, near Interstate 65, shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday, Noblitt said.

After confirming he had the right vehicle, Green waited until additional officers arrived before approaching it. Jonathan Harness was removed from the vehicle at gunpoint and taken into custody without incident, Noblitt said.

The two children were found unharmed inside a Clarion motel room a short time later, he said.

Jonathan Harness was taken to the Bartholomew County Jail, where he was ordered held without bond. Buffy Harness was taken to the Morgan County Jail in Martinsville, Noblitt said.

Each was charged with two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, Class A felonies; two counts of criminal deviate conduct, Class B felonies; two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, class B felonies; and sexual battery and neglect of a dependent, both Class D felonies. Jonathan Harness also was charged with two misdemeanor counts of intimidation.

State police reported the couple's address as 140 E. Washington St., Morgantown. 

The original date on the charges against Buffy Harness is listed in Morgan County court documents as Oct. 24, 2010.

In April 2010, Buffy Harness opened a shop at the north end of Nashville, Livin' the Legacy, featuring Confederate flag gifts and "southern heritage" memorabilia.

At that time, she identified herself as a lifelong Brown County resident, mother of four and former nurse. Jonathan was a pastor at Abundant Life Fellowship in Morgantown.

Livin' the Legacy has since closed.

-- Mark Webber, The Republic, with the Brown County Democrat

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