A youth pastor at a rural Pennsylvania church has been fired and arrested on statutory sexual assault charges after police said he admitted to impregnating a 15-year-old girl, according to the Associated Press.
Police said the youth pastor, 35-year-old Wesley Blackburn, told his wife he was having an affair with the girl and that he wanted a divorce, the AP reported.
Distraught, Blackburn’s wife reportedly turned to Jim Espenshade, the senior pastor of Faith Brethren Bible Church in New Paris, Pa., about 100 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
“I was shocked. Absolutely shocked,” Espenshade told WJAC News. “You work with him and you’re there and you’re thinking, how could this happen? How could he do this?”
Blackburn’s wife told him she didn’t know what to do, Espenshade told the news station. “And I said, ‘I do.’ ”
Espenshade told the station that he rounded up the church’s other leaders in the parking lot, along with Blackburn, and they fired the youth pastor immediately, then called police.
“We didn’t even care what he had to say — we don’t tolerate this kind of stuff,” Espenshade told the station. “It’s inappropriate. It’s reprehensible.”
Blackburn is a father of five who met with seventh- and eighth-grade students weekly, according to WJAC.
Blackburn was arrested at the church on the afternoon of Oct. 6 and was still packing up his belongings when a Pennsylvania State police officer arrived, according to the Tribune-Democrat.
A probable cause affidavit detailed how long Blackburn had allegedly known and had a sexual relationship with the girl, the paper reported:
Blackburn told the trooper that he had met the girl in 2009, when he first came to Faith Brethren Bible Church, and that they grew closer after she joined his youth group in 2014, according to the affidavit. Blackburn said he and the girl developed a physical relationship in March, the affidavit said.
When the trooper informed Blackburn that the girl was pregnant, Blackburn acknowledged that he was the child’s father, according to the affidavit. The trooper then took Blackburn into custody.
As of Friday, Blackburn remained in the Bedford County jail unable to post bond on one count of corruption of minors and 84 counts each of statutory sexual assault and indecent assault, the AP reported.
Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins told WTAJ News the investigation is ongoing and that the church leaders did the right thing in contacting police.
“Everybody acted appropriately as soon as the information was found out,” Higgins told the news station. “The church acted appropriately and has been cooperative with the investigation. There is no indication that anybody knew about it other than the two people involved. As soon as it was discovered, it was immediately reported to the authorities, who took prompt action.”