A Southern Baptist youth minister in Arizona was reportedly placed on administrative leave following his arrest last Friday on nine charges of sexual misconduct and abuse of a 13-year-old girl.
While East Tucson Baptist Church dealt with the initial shock of being at the center of an alleged child-abuse scandal, First Baptist Church of Sinton, Texas, learned that a 65-year-old former deacon and long-time member was sentenced to 37 years in prison for molesting a 6-year-old girl during a church outing last May at a movie theater in Corpus Christi.
Members of East Tucson Baptist Church told CBS affiliate KOLD News-13 they were stunned by the arrest of Chris Decaire, who has worked two years with student ministries but has been attending the church for eight years.
Decaire faces two charges of molestation of a child, four counts sexual conduct of a minor, two counts sexual abuse and one count sexual abuse of a child. Police say the abuse of a girl who attends the church may have gone on for a year.
Channel 13 said police served a search warrant at the church, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and got swabs from Decaire’s mouth for DNA. They also searched for biological evidence on floors, curtains and furniture using forensic light that would indicate some abuse went on at the church.
News reports said the alleged victim told a relative about the abuse, who in turned called police. John Anderson, the church’s pastor, said only a deacon and the police know her identity.
Anderson, who also serves as interim director of missions for Catalina Baptist Association serving two counties in southern Arizona, compared the church’s reaction to “getting hit in the stomach unexpectedly and getting the wind knocked out of you.”
“Shock, anger, denial rationalization, all of those are taking place right now,” Anderson told the TV station. “We’re still numb, we’re speechless.”
In Texas, meanwhile, a jury of 11 men and one woman deliberated about two hours before finding Stephen Douglas Livingston guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child.
After the verdict, according to the Corpus-Christi Caller-Times, Livingston apologized to some of the girl’s family members attending the trial. “I stumbled, and I’m truly sorry for that,” he said.
During the trial, Livingston testified he didn’t know graphic images found on his computer were child pornography and claimed deleted journals detailing sexual encounters with several young girls were research he planned to use to minister to child molesters in prison.
Prosecutor Anna Jimenez urged jurors not to believe Livingston and described him as a sexual predator. “This man picked the most vulnerable prey,” she said in closing arguments. “If (the incidents) were accidental they wouldn’t have been documented so graphically in those journals.”
Defense attorney Andy Mack questioned the alleged victim’s credibility during the trial and after the verdict argued his client should receive probation. “I think he’s a good man,” Mack reportedly said while leaving the courtroom. “I think he made some mistakes.”
Livingston’s wife, a Christian school teacher, said she stands by her husband and believed his account that the journals were fiction.
Court officials said Livingston was also indicted last week on three counts of indecency with a child in San Patricio County.
During the trial, another 7-year-old girl testified that Livingston touched her inappropriately several times at his house while she sat on his lap, but she was “too scared” to tell her grandmother.
Rhonda Rosenauer, a church member, testified for the defense that one of the girls who testified against Livingston was often dishonest.
Livingston testified the alleged victim was overly affectionate and a “clinger” who desired to be close to him but denied he molested her or any other children.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.