Child Abuse Detectives File Sexual Assault Charge

Aug 2, 2006 08:39 AM CDT

A minister from one of the city's largest churches is out on bond Tuesday night after facing accusations that he molested a child.

Austin police arrested 51-year-old Jerry Dale Carver Monday night. The married father of three children is charged with sexual assault of a child -- a 15-year-old boy.

Carver was the Minister of Education at the Great Hills Baptist Church.

Detectives say on July 25, he approached the victim at a bus stop and offered him a ride.

"And took him to a park where he had the child perform oral sex on him," APD Sgt. Brian Loyd said.

Detectives say Carver admits having sexual contact with the boy. They say he took the boy home afterward.

Carver is no longer working at the church.

On the Great Hills Baptist Web site, Pastor Michael Lewis posted a statement saying: "The church is saddened by the report today by the Austin Police Department, and we are concerned for all of the individuals involved. This is a serious matter that is the subject of a pending investigation, so it would not be appropriate to make any further public comment at this time."

This is not the first time the congregation at Great Hills Baptist Church has had to deal with child sex allegations.

In 1999, the church was rocked by allegations that a youth minister sexually assaulted a 14-year-old boy over a period of several months.

That youth minister, Charles Willits, was found guilty and was sentenced to 15 years for his sexual relationship with the teenage boy.

"If they're interested in sexual behavior with a child, they're going to look for where children are," Dr. Michael Bishop with the Austin Family Institute said.

Bishop is a family therapist. He says because predators get involved in youth activities, churches and other groups need to be extra cautious.

"Doing background checks, and virtually seeing is there any way that we can protect children at the highest premium," Bishop said.

In the case of Willits, church members at Great Hills Baptist stood by him. Some stayed loyal to the end, refusing to believe their youth minister was capable of sexually assaulting boys.

"He (Willits) would be a part of my ministry today, without a doubt, without blinking an eye. I would serve with him till the day I die," youth minister Billy Muench said in 1999.

That reaction will likely be seen again in this week's arrest of Carver. The congregation at Great Hills Baptist will probably be tested, perhaps divided. Bishop says that's expected, but not needed.

"There are going to be people that are already going to draw sides, and everybody needs to take a step back and just wait and see how this unfolds," Bishop said.

KXAN found out that a phone message has gone out to church members through a phone tree informing them about the arrest.

Detectives believe there may be additional victims and are asking parents who observe a change in the behavior of their child to contact the Child Abuse Tip Line at 512-974-6880.

See also:

Minister charged with sex assault, Austin American-Statesman, 12/9/07.

Second former minister from Austin Southern Baptist church convicted of molestation, EthicsDaily, 12/21/07

SNAP Note:  Great Hills Baptist Church is an SBC-affiliated church, and its senior pastor, Michael Lewis is a member of the SBC Executive Committee.