CENTERTON, Ark. (KNWA) — A former volunteer youth minister was sentenced to probation and jail time after admitting to sexually assaulting a 17-year-old church member.
Derek L. Smittle, 31, of Centerton pleaded guilty Monday (December 2) to sexual assault.
Smittle pleaded to 10 years probation, 120 days jail, and registered as sex offender, according to Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Smith.
Smith said the victim and family supported the plea.
They would have been okay with no jail, according to Smith.
Bentonville police arrested a man on Monday, January 14, for first-degree sexual assault.
Derek Smittle, 30, of Centerton, is suspected of having sexual relations with a minor female in Bentonville, according to a press release.
The probable cause affidavit stated that Smittle was a youth pastor at First Baptist in Centerton.
The church issued a statement in part saying Smittle, “was not a youth pastor at our church and was not in a position of church authority or decision-making. We have relieved the accused individual of all volunteer responsibilities until this is resolved and are committed to ministering to and praying for all those who are burdened by these circumstances.”
First Baptist Centerton goes on to say that these circumstances, “have compelled us to review our policies and procedures in an effort to add further layers of protection for children, students, and vulnerable adults.” (full statement below).
Last Monday, (January, 7) the minor’s parents found Smittle and the minor at an Airbnb (vacation rental) in Cave Springs, the affidavit states.
Smittle confirmed sexual relations began at his house on October 11, 2018, and ended January 7, 2019.
According to the affidavit, the minor said they have had a secret relationship for a year and three months, and the relationship became serious when she was 16 years old.
Smittle was booked into the Benton County Jail. Smittle posted bond and was released.
Statement from First Baptist Centerton:
First Baptist Centerton takes many steps to provide a safe environment for our young people that will allow them to learn and grow in their relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We work to minimize threats to the safety of our children and youth at church-sponsored events. Sadly, we realize that we live in a world tainted by sin and that we cannot prevent or control behaviors that happen off campus and outside of church-sponsored events.
First Baptist Centerton has become aware of accusations that one of our church volunteers has engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior, and we take these accusations seriously. This individual was not a youth pastor at our church and was not in a position of church authority or decision-making. We have relieved the accused individual of all volunteer responsibilities until this is resolved and are committed to ministering to and praying for all who are burdened by these circumstances.
As a church that endeavors to follow the high standard of morality outlined in the Bible, we recognize the seriousness of immoral sexual behavior. We have safeguards at all church events to protect our young people, but these circumstances have compelled us to review our policies and procedures in an effort to add further layers of protection for children, students, and vulnerable adults. To protect the privacy of our members and guests, the church will make no further comment at this time.