Search warrant: Black Mountain pastor facing child sex charges plotted against parents

Shelby Harris
Asheville Citizen Times

Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office search warrants show a Black Mountain church pastor falsely reported a child's parents for abuse and attempted to get them to sign over parental rights for their 15-year-old daughter he was allegedly sexually assaulting.

Warrants pertaining to the arrest of Trent Brandon Holbert, former pastor of The Ridge Church, detailed the events that led to the 41-year-old being charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, indecent liberties with a child and two counts of felony statutory sex offense with a child under 15. 

When Holbert reported the parents to the NC Division of Social Services with allegations of neglect, the claims were unsubstantiated.

“She found there to be no problems in the home,” the warrant states regarding deputies’ conversation with the caseworker investigating the claims. 

Holbert was first arrested and charged with a misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor after a teen told her parents “she and (Holbert) engaged in sexual acts but not intercourse.”

The name of the victim and her parents have been withheld to maintain victims’ rights.

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Investigators began working the case on May 17 when the victim’s parents contacted deputies about their child “engaging in a secret and sexual relationship with their former pastor,” according to a May 18 Sheriff’s Office search warrant. 

The parents told law enforcement their child and Holbert “became very close” shortly after the family relocated to Black Mountain from Kentucky in April 2020. Police documents state Holbert offered the child a spare bedroom in his home while her family looked for a house.

“(They) began spending a lot of time together and looking for excuses to hang out together,” the warrant states. 

Holbert began holding personal training sessions for the victim and buying her gifts, such as clothes, underwear and feminine hygiene products. According to the search warrant, Holbert also gave the victim one of his T-shirts after the victim told him she had a bad dream so, “his smell would help her sleep.”

Holbert also sent many text messages to the victim. The warrant stated when the teen’s  parents noticed the texts, they confiscated her cell phone; however, Holbert continued to contact her on a cell phone she secretly bought and had shipped to her workplace.

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According to the search warrant, Holbert asked the victim’s parents to sign a waiver giving him parental rights in the event of their deaths. The parents refused and said the request bothered them.

The morning after asking for parental rights, Holbert texted the parents “that (they) would die in seven days and then said (he was) just joking,” the warrant states.

The victim’s parents could not be reached for comment. 

On May 10, 2021, the victim sneaked out of her home, and Holbert’s wife, Amanda, picked her up without the teen’s parents’ consent, according to the warrant. Days later, the victim texted Holbert on her electronic tablet and told him her parents knew about Amanda Holbert picking her up. Holbert asked if the victim had deleted all the messages, and she said, "yes."

The parents also found the victim wrote in her journal that she was afraid both that she was pregnant and that her relationship with Holbert would be ending, the warrant stated. 

Her parents contacted law enforcement May 18, and investigators obtained search warrants for Holbert’s home and The Ridge Church, and confiscated several electronics, including a second cell phone found in Holbert’s bedroom. 

During the search, Holbert was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was released the same day with a written promise to appear in court, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Aaron Sarver said. 

No charges were brought against Amanda Holbert, Sarver said.

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During a May 25 forensic exam, the victim disclosed that while living with Holbert, he would enter her room and sexually assault her in the morning after his wife left the house, according to a June 8 Sheriff’s Office search warrant. 

“She stated that he kept lubrication in her closet,” the warrant stated. 

The warrants do not say how long the victim lived in Holbert’s house or if she became pregnant. 

The victim also disclosed that she and Holbert talked about “sexual things” in text messages and that Holbert had a second phone he used to communicate with her. 

On June 8, detectives executed two additional search warrants to retrieve data from the devices confiscated at The Ridge Church and Holbert’s home May 18. 

Details about the contents on the devices have not been made public. 

“Typically we don't comment on the specifics of an investigation prior to it being adjudicated,” Sarver told the Citizen Times Oct. 5. “The Sheriff's Office works very hard to obtain convictions, and we don't want to jeopardize a case by improperly ‘trying the case’ in the media.”

On June 16, Holbert was arrested and charged with two felony counts of statutory sex offense with a child under 15 and one felony count of indecent liberties with a child. He was released the same day on a $300,000 bond, Sarver said. 

He is set to appear in court for the misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor Nov. 30. 

Neither Holbert nor his attorney, Sean Devereux, responded to the Citizen Times’ request for comment.

The Ridge Church does not have an active website or social media accounts and did not answer Citizen Times’ phone calls seeking comment.

Shelby Harris is a reporter covering breaking news, education and other topics. She can be reached at sharris@citizentimes.com or on Twitter @_shelbyharris.