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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

  • March 6
    Bingo
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • March 6
    'SpongeBob Movie' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • March 6
    Live band at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, Coachlight Square, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • March 7
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • March 7
    Meet your legislators at County Office Building
    10 a.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • March 7
    Meet 'Wilderness Plots' author at the library
    7 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • March 7
    Music celebration at the Playhouse
    7:30 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • March 7
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    7:30 p.m. Brown County State Park, State Road 46 East
  • March 7
    Live music at winery
    7 to 10 p.m. Chateau Thomas Winery, Coachlight Square, 225 S. Van Buren St.
  • March 8
    'Wilderness Plots'-themed concert planned
    4 p.m. BCHS, 235 School House Lane
  • March 8
    Brown County bridal tour slated
    10 a.m. to 6 p.m. various locations
  • March 8
    'SpongeBob Movie' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • March 9
    Beeline beekeepers club
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  • March 10
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
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    Soil & water conservation district to celebrate 62 years
    6 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould
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    Nashville Parking & Public Facilities
    6 p.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • March 10
    Widowed group euchre party
    1 p.m. Sycamore Valley Community Center, 746 Memorial Drive
  • March 10
    Peaceful Valley Heritage meeting
    6:30 p.m. Brown County Presbyterian Fellowship, 602 State Road 135 North
  • March 10
    CSCD Roads, Security commissions
    6 p.m., 7:30 p.m. CSCD Office, 8377 Cordry Drive; CSLOA Clubhouse, 8751 Nineveh Road
  • March 11
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • March 12
    Rotary Club
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    BC photography club
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  • March 13
    Bingo
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  • March 14
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • March 14
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    7:30 p.m. Brown County State Park, State Road 46 East
  • March 18
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • March 19
    WRAPS
    7 to 9 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • March 20
    Bingo
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  • March 20
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    12:20 p.m. Brown County IGA parking lot, 30 Hawthorne Dr.; St. David's Episcopal Church, 11 State Road 45 at 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • March 21
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
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  • March 21
    Jackson Township VFD yard sale
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  • March 27
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • April 9
    BC photography club
    7 to 9 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • April 24
    Wildflower foray slated at historic site
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  • April 25
    Wildflower foray slated at historic site
    TC Steele State Historic Site, 4220 T.C. Steele Road, Belmont
  • April 26
    County history center dedication slated
    2 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould
  • April 26
    Wildflower foray slated at historic site
    TC Steele State Historic Site, 4220 T.C. Steele Road, Belmont