BELLEVIEW, Fla. – A Belleview youth pastor is accused of sending sexually explicit messages to 15-year-old girl in his youth group, officials with the Marion County Sheriff's Office said.
Deputies arrested Christopher Lee Patrick, 30, on Tuesday after a parent told a Marion County high school resource officer that a 15-year-old girl had inappropriate messages on her phone from Patrick.
A witness told deputies that they recognized the phone number because Patrick, who is a youth pastor at Grace Baptist Church, would pick up the 15-year-old victim and other girls and drive them to church.
Patrick and his wife are the junior high youth leaders at the Belleview church, according to the Grace Baptist Church Facebook page.
Deputies said the victim denied the messages came from Patrick, however after her parents gave authorities consent to search the girl's phone, deputies found messages on the Text Now app from Patrick's phone number.
Text messages from Patrick to the girl were graphic in nature and discussed sexual encounters, deputies said. The suspect discussed things he wanted to do to the 15-year-old "the next time we are alone."
Several photos of a man's penis were sent to the girl, deputies found in text messages.
The victim told deputies the messages weren't from Patrick but another teenager, and she saved them under Patrick's number so she would recognize it. When deputies said this did not make sense, the girl said, "Everyone needed to stay out of her business," according to the report.
Deputies said they found other messages from Patrick instructing the girl to lie to authorities and her parents about their encounters after she told him people had been asking her questions.
"Just remember deny everything," the suspect told the girl in a message.
When interviewed by detectives Patrick denied the relationship and said the victim goes to his church. When deputies showed Patrick the messages from his phone number to the girl instructing her to deny everything, he asked for a lawyer, according to the report.
News 6 spoke to members of the community Tuesday who said Patrick was a family man who loved his church. Many said they don't believe the allegations are true.
"Oh my goodness, that’s a shock. What a terrible shock," neighbor Karen Taylor said.
John Torso said he was shocked.
"I would never ever think he would say anything like that," Torso said. "He loves the Lord. He works with the community, loves his football. He's a family guy."
Patrick was arrested Tuesday and charged with obscene communication using a computer to seduce or solicit a child and cruelty toward a child. He posted bail and was released from jail Tuesday around 3:20 p.m.