As part of his agreement with the state, Lovelady, now 18, pleaded guilty to three counts of child molestation and one count of false imprisonment.
According to Spalding County District Attorney Scott Ballard, Lovelady was sentenced to 15 years, with seven to be served in prison and the remainder spent on probation, a much shorter sentence than he could possibly have received, had he chosen to go to trial and been convicted on all charges.
“He could have gotten 90 years, theoretically,” Ballard said. “He could have gotten 20 years on each of the four molestation counts he was facing and 10 years on the false imprisonment charge.”
Ballard said Lovelady, who has been incarcerated since his arrest Nov. 11, will receive credit for time he has already served.
From the Spalding County Jail, where Lovelady has been held, Ballard said Lovelady will “initially go to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson for evaluation and they will assign him to a facility from there.”
At his court appearance Monday, Lovelady answered questions posed by the judge, but otherwise made no official statement.
However, the district attorney said Lovelady had previously confessed to at least some of the crimes with which he was charged.
“He had already confessed to a couple of the molestations,” Ballard said. “He admitted that he kissed one of the little girls on the lips and that he touched one of the other girls inside her pants.”
The two girls Lovelady admitted molesting were 5 and 6 years old.
The false imprisonment charge stemmed from an incident in which Lovelady held a young girl against her will in a bathroom within Harvest Temple.
“There were witnesses who saw the child as she escaped and ran from the bathroom,” Ballard said.
It was at this time the child gave a victim’s statement to adults present at the church, which led to Lovelady’s arrest.
“What makes this particularly traumatic to me is that this molestation took place in a church-school setting where you think your child should be safe,” Ballard said. “This was a guy the children had kind of befriended -- they looked up to him. That’s what child molesters do. They can’t molest if they don’t gain their victim’s trust first.”