MEDFORD — The pastor of a local church has admitted in court that he sexually assaulted four children over the course of several years.

Harry L. Thomas, 74, pleaded guilty last week to one count of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, three counts of second-degree sexual assault, and one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, according to Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina.

As part of the plea agreement, Thomas admitted to assaulting the four children and having inappropriate interaction with a fifth child between 1999 and 2015.

Thomas was arrested at the end of last year. The investigation into the alleged assaults started after police were notified by one of the victim's parents, according to prosecutor's office spokesman Joel Bewley.

At the time of his arrest, Thomas was working as the pastor of the Come Alive Church in Medford. He was suspended from his role at the church shortly after arrest. A statement from the church said the decision to suspend Thomas was made "with deep regret and saddened hearts."

The statement from the church also said that the charges against Thomas were "unrelated to his roles in these ministries."

According to reports cited by Gannett New Jersey, Thomas founded the church in 1983, initially holding services in a township school building.

"It is requested that all pray for the parties involved and refrain from speculation regarding the circumstances," the church said at the time.

As of Monday morning, an updated message on the church's website said Thomas had "officially resigned all associations and ministry roles" with the church. The statement said the church will continue to cooperate with the authorities.

"While we are unable to share the details of what was reported, we have been informed that the charges are not related to any of his roles in these ministries," the statement said. "Let us continue to pray for all parties involved so there may be ultimate healing, redemption and restoration."

Thomas would serve a 20-year-jail sentence when he is sentenced in June under his plea agreement, according to Coffina. The Medford resident would be required to serve his whole sentence, and would not be eligible for parole under the terms of the plea.

The prosecutor's office did not release information about the victims in order to protect their identities.

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