Church volunteer accused of molesting girl during festival

Suspect claims he was tickling victim, deputies say

ORLANDO, Fla. – A volunteer teacher at First Baptist Church is accused of molesting a girl during the church's fall festival event on Saturday, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

The victim told deputies that her legs were sore from helping to set up for the fall festival so she approached family friend John Ware, 53, and asked if she could sit in his car and rest.

She said they sat in the vehicle for a few moments then Ware began driving toward the back parking lot of the church.

Ware started touching the victim's thigh, asking if she had any ticklish spots then put his hand up her jean shorts, according to the arrest report.

The victim tried to push Ware off, but he molested her again, deputies said.

Deputies spoke to Ware on Monday, after the girl told an adult what happened and that woman reported the crime.

Ware denied the allegations, but did admit to tickling the girl, according to the affidavit.

Deputies then asked Ware if he might have molested the victim by mistake.

"It's possible because (the victim) was squirming, but it wasn't on purpose," Ware said, according to the report.

Dylan Williams attended the fall festival with his children on Saturday. He said he was disgusted to hear about the allegations.

 "It's very sad because, like I said, church is one place you think you can be safe," Williams said.

Pastor Bill Burkhalter said Ware volunteered was a teacher at the church for one hour a week, but was not an employee there. The church did a background check on him in 2013 and nothing concerning came up.

Burkhalter said church officials contacted authorities immediately after they became aware of the allegations.

Ware was charged with sexual battery on a victim less than 12 years old.