LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - A Central Florida church deacon received no bond Saturday morning after turning himself in for allegedly molesting a girl under the age of 10.
The Lake County Sheriff's Office said Thomas Halsey, 65, turned himself in at their jail Friday.
Detectives obtained a warrant earlier on Friday for sexual battery on a victim under 12.
Halsey was a deacon at First Baptist Church of Leesburg. During Halsey's first appearance before a judge Saturday morning, he said he was let go of his job last week and is currently unemployed.
Halsey was given no bond and appointed a public defender.
Deputies said the girl, whose identity is being protected, had told her mother that she was performing a sexual act with Halsey. The girl said during her forensic interview that it was a secret between her and Halsey, according to the Sheriff's Office. The girl also disclosed to her mother privately that it was a secret and not to tell Halsey's wife.
Investigators said it had been happening for roughly two years.
The girl told deputies the events occurred in a treehouse in the back yard of Halsey's home and on his bed under the sheets. Deputies described the treehouse as an elaborate, 3-story house. Investigators say he claimed the girl initiated it.
Sgt. James Vachon, with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, told Local 6, "It's kind of reminiscent of the plain white van with the puppy inside. It's definitely a lure."
The incident did not occur on church property, according to the Sheriff's Office.
During his interview, Halsey said after every incident he made the girl's mother aware of the inappropriate behavior. Upon speaking with the girl's mother, deputies said she denied that Halsey contacted her about it.
Local 6 checked with First Baptist Church on Friday, who said Halsey did undergo a background check and didn't regularly work with children.
The church also told Local 6 Halsey has been removed as a deacon.
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