Fulwider had essentially admitted to raping a girl (he called it a “sexual relationship”) since she was 14 years old, while he was her pastor at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park in Florida. Prosecutors said the case against him was “extremely strong,” which might explain why he chose to end his life rather than face the consequences for his alleged crimes.
Prosecutors had described the case against Fulwider as “extremely strong,” pointing to an almost hour-long recorded call between Fulwider and his accuser, in which Fulwider admitted the woman was a victim and he was a predator in the “eyes of the law.”
In that controlled call, Winter Park Police Department detectives said they recorded Fulwider admitting to a “sexual relationship” with the victim for years when she was younger than 18.
“[T]here was never anything salacious or bad about it and you were always too damn mature for your own good and I have always loved you,” Fulwider told his accuser in the call, according to police. “It wasn’t like I was off hunting people. It was a connection.”
In almost every case involving child sex abuse, the suicide of the alleged attacker is seen as a problem for the prosecutors and victims. While some may say it’s just the trash taking itself out, the death of the defendant often hampers the investigation and makes real justice elusive. It also deprives the victims of any sense of closure.
That being said, the known victim in this case has vowed not to let his deeds go unpunished.
The woman who had accused Fulwider of sexually abusing her for years said on Monday that she was not shocked by his suicide, and thanked the Winter Park Police Department for its work on the case and “belief in victims.”
“Fulwider’s day in court will never come because he knew all the truths I could tell,” the woman wrote in a statement, shared with the Sentinel on the condition of anonymity. “My story doesn’t stop with his cowardice through; I will work in the coming months to get justice for myself and any other victims impacted by Fulwider’s abuse.”
“I’m thinking of Fulwider’s other victims and hope they are well tonight,” she wrote. The Sentinel does not typically identify victims of child sex abuse. Fulwider had not been accused by police of abusing anyone else at the time of his death, though WPPD said detectives were investigating whether there could be additional victims.
That’s an incredible attitude from the victim. She could have been angrier. She had every right to be. But she took the high ground, even committing herself to work for justice for the other victims.
It’s worth noting the similarities between this case and one in 2017, when Kentucky State Representative Dan Johnson — also a pastor — killed himself following an in-depth investigative report alleging child sex abuse.
As was the case then, I won’t shed a tear for the death of this man.