Athens, Tennessee, man charged after alleged sexual assault of child in local park bathroom

Handcuffs tile arrest crime tile arrests police criminal tile / Getty Images

An Athens, Tennessee, man has been booked on a rape charge stemming from allegations he picked up and carried a child into a bathroom at a local city park and sexually assaulted the child.

Jeffery Lynn Gregory, 61, of Athens, Tennessee, is charged with rape of a child stemming from assault allegations at the city's Prof Powers Park on East Madison Avenue, according to an affidavit filed by Athens police in General Sessions Court.

Gregory, who was being held on a $25,500 bond, is represented in the case by the 10th Judicial District Public Defender's Office. Public defender Richard Hughes couldn't immediately be reached Tuesday for comment on the case. The 10th Judicial District includes Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties.

The alleged victim in the case, under age 17, and other children were walking home from a nearby school when some of the juveniles decided to go to another location and the alleged victim decided to go to Prof Powers Park near downtown Athens, the affidavit states.

(READ MORE: Two men get prison sentences in Rhea County child sex abuse cases)

While sitting at a park picnic table, the juvenile saw a silver car circling the parking lot several times before it parked and a man got out and walked over and started a conversation, the affidavit states, adding that the man carried the juvenile into a bathroom, where the alleged assault took place.

Afterward, the juvenile fled the bathroom and ran to nearby St. Mary's Church to call a family member. Another person in the area at the same time spotted the silver car and took a cellphone photo of it and its license plate, according to the affidavit. Police were soon called to the church, where some adults told officers the juvenile had come to the church crying.

Officers used the cellphone photo of the license plate to identify Gregory's car, the affidavit states. One of the juvenile's family members returned to find the silver car still at the park and began to follow it.

(READ MORE: Court documents show youngest victim was 14 in statutory rape case against McMinn County woman)

Police stopped the car, found Gregory inside and took him into custody, according to the affidavit.

Athens Police Chief Fred Schultz said investigators will work with the District Attorney's Office to make sure the case is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

"Off and on over the last couple of decades, this park has been a trouble spot," Schultz said Tuesday in an email.

Schultz, who became the city's chief in April, has been a member of local law enforcement for more than 30 years.

"Saturation patrols have been impactful in the area," he said of past strategies.

The department lacks the resources to establish a constant presence while still providing police protection to the rest of the city, he said.

"However, in light of this incident, we are refocusing on some successful tactics that we have used in the past," he said.

Gregory's next court date is June 16, court officials said Tuesday in an email.

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.