September 20, 2020

Ex-pastor on suicide watch after Mississippi jury convicts him of child rape and sexual battery

A 12-member Warren County jury Thursday night convicted a former church pastor of one count of statutory rape and one count of sexual battery involving two 14-year-old girls.

District Attorney Ricky Smith said the Rev. Troy Anthony Piccaluga, 48, former pastor of the Eagle Lake and Redwood United Methodist churches, was initially charged with two counts of statutory rape and one count of sexual battery. He said the jury was unable to reach a verdict on one of the rape counts.

Ninth District Circuit Judge Toni Terrett set Piccaluga’s sentencing for March 27 and ordered a pre-sentence investigation.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said Piccaluga is being held in the Warren County Jail on suicide watch.

When the clerk was reading the guilty verdict, the sheriff said, courtroom deputies saw Piccaluga, who was out on bond, “Pull a handful of what appeared to be pills out of his pocket and take them.”

He said Piccaluga was taken to the Merit Health River Region emergency room, where he was treated and later released. He was booked in to the county jail early Friday morning.

The jury deliberated about five hours, returning the guilty verdicts about 11 p.m. Thursday, Smith said.

“The office is very happy with the verdict,” he said. “We’ve gotten to know the families of the victims while preparing this case and the victims themselves. We really wanted to make sure because of what they went through and their ages they got justice in this case.”

“It was a tragic case; we pray for the victim’s recovery in this and I commend the district attorney’s staff for doing a great job,” Pace said.

Piccaluga was arrested March 30, 2018, at his home in the Redwood community by deputies with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office after an investigation into a complaint about a girl between the ages of 14 and 16 having a sexual relationship with an older man.

The second victim was discovered during the investigation into the initial complaint.

According to reports, the incidents occurred between January and March 2018.

Piccaluga was indicted on the charges by a Warren County grand jury in August 2018. He was released from jail Sept. 9, 2018, after posting $150,000 bond.