POPE COUNTY, AR – A former Atkins youth pastor has been charged with sexual assault of teenage girl at his church.
According to court documents, Rusty Allen Russell has been charged with 4th degree sexual assault.
The pastor at the Atkins church fired Russell and reported the allegations that the youth pastor was involved with a 15-year-old to police when he first heard about them in December.
Original Story (April 13):
POPE COUNTY, AR — An ongoing investigation alleges a youth pastor in Atkins was intimately involved with a 15-year-old girl at his church.
We are not using the pastor’s name in this story, because he has not yet been arrested.
Our Facebook friends have been asking us to look into the story, and with the evidence we found and the fact the pastor was working with kids — we decided it’s time to share what we know with the public.
“He coached my daughter’s tee-ball team,” said Shalee Fowler, a mother of three who says she never thought twice about the man she trusted with her kids.
“I liked him,” she said. “He was a really likable guy. This is the last thing I would ever expect him to do.”
We found information about the case at the Pope County Courthouse where a divorce filing accuses the former pastor of “having sexual physical contact” with the teen girl.
The filing also contains pictures of social media conversations where the former pastor allegedly tells the girl: “I never anticipated that I would fall so madly in love w U.”
Another message reads: “I laid awake imagining u on our wedding day & how incredible that day will be.”
“She’s a child and there’s something wrong with being attracted to children,” Fowler said.
The pastor at the Atkins church says he fired the youth minister and reported the allegations to police when he first heard about them in December. Four months later, the case is still being investigated, and the wait has frustrated some in the community.
“He’s getting away with it is what it seems like,” Fowler said. “That’s a frustration because there is evidence.”
The Pope County prosecutor says he’s waiting for final interviews to be conducted and hopes to have a decision on whether or not to file charges in the next couple weeks.
Meanwhile, an attorney for the former pastor issued the below statement Thursday:
“It has come to my attention that my client, [redacted] has been made the subject of numerous false, slanderous, and libelous accusations from those in the community arising out of his pending divorce proceeding in Pope County. Such baseless allegations, particularly those displayed on social media, have been deliberately formulated to defame my client’s character and name.
I am unaware of any action of my client to be in violation of any state or local law. [Redacted] has not been formally arrested or charged based upon the rumored allegations. I am extremely confident that any action arising out of his unfortunate separation with his wife, [redacted], were not criminal in nature. The neighborhood and internet gossip is no more than just that. Gossip.”