After a witness saw a Florida pastor huddled with a 17-year-old parishioner in a church back room, the pastor offered the witness a grave explanation as to why he and the teen were so close, police said.
Gerardo Martinez, the 52-year-old pastor at Miracle Christian Church, told the person who saw him with the teen girl that the girl had multiple personalities — and one of those personalities was “possessed by a demon,” according to police records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. Martinez allegedly said he was praying with the girl at the church in New Port Richey, Fla.
Martinez convinced the girl that she had multiple personalities, too, according to police.
But in reality, Martinez was using the story as a pretense to be alone with the girl and have sex with her, police said — beginning in April of last year and running till October, WTSP reports. Martinez and the 17-year-old had sexual contact in the church’s parking lot, at the girl’s Tarpon Springs home and even in a grocery store parking lot, police said.
“People put their trust in someone like a pastor and it’s something that as a parent of a child they don’t expect something like this to happen,” Jason Hatcher of Pasco County Sheriff's Office told ABC Action News. “But it’s kind of obvious that .... he was grooming her.”
Martinez was arrested Friday and charged with two felony counts of sexual battery, according to Pasco County Sheriff’s Office records. He was released Saturday on $100,000 bond.
Police said that Martinez built trust with the girl’s parents, allowing him alone time with her — including at church, WFLA reports, where Martinez would ask the girl to stay after so he could “pray for her.”
A witness told police that on more than one occasion the girl walked from her home to a car Martinez was driving. Martinez explained to police that he did not go inside the girl’s house, but did meet the girl there to help walk her dog when here parents weren’t at home, WFLA reports.
Martinez denied having sexual contact with the girl, the Times reports, telling police that he would drive close to her house to help her walk the dog “because she asked him to come over.” Martinez’s wife told police that her husband had not told her about going over to the girl’s home to walk a dog.