A Central Florida pastor was jailed Tuesday and charged with obscene communication with a minor and cruelty toward a child for transmitting harmful information.
According to Marion County Sheriff’s Office Detective Craig Evans, youth pastor Christopher Patrick, 30, associated with Grace Baptist Church in Belleview, near Ocala, sent sexually explicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl.
The teen, who was in a junior high youth program run by Patrick and his wife Alison at the church, received explicit texts and images on her phone allegedly from the pastor.
Patrick was turned in by a parent who saw the messages and images on the phone. The parent told a high school resource officer and that launched the sheriff’s department investigation.
Evans, a detective in the department’s Major Crimes division, was able to get the phone records from the girl’s phone and recovered the “sexually explicit messages and images that Patrick sent to the victim,” according to the sheriff’s department.
Patrick used a Text Now app to send the messages via phone, WKMG Click Orlando reported.
According to the department, Evans also found messages from Patrick that told the girl “to deny everything to the police and to tell everyone that it wasn’t him that she was talking to. He also told the victim to tell investigators that she changed the name on the text message to make it look like it was him.”
During an interview with Evans, Patrick denied having any knowledge of the text messages.
He was released from jail on Tuesday after posting $4,000 on the two charges.
Marion County Sheriff’s Department asks that if anyone has information on other victims, they are urged to call Det. Evans at 352-368-3535.