Former O.C. pastor arrested on sex charges



March 23, 2011

Joe David Nelms booking photo (Orange County District Attorney's office)

SANTA ANA – A Texas man has been arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl when he was the youth pastor at a San Clemente church in 1993, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Joe David Nelms, 47, formerly of San Clemente, is charged with eight felony counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 and faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in state prison if convicted

He was arrested Friday in Lindale, Texas, on an Orange County warrant and is being held without bail pending an extradition hearing. Upon his return to Orange County, prosecutors will request that he be held in lieu of $200,000 bail, according to a news release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors are also seeking the public's help identifying any potential additional victims, according to the news release.

Nelms, then 29, met 13-year-old Jane Doe in 1993 while he was working as a youth pastor at Pacific Coast Church in San Clemente, prosecutors said. Over a three-year period, Nelms is accused of sexually assaulting the victim at the church and in a car, according to the news release.

She reported the sexual assault to law enforcement in 2011 after being encouraged by a friend, whom she confided the abuse, according to prosecutors. Nelms was arrested at his home in Texas on March 18, 2011, and is in custody in the Smith County jail.

Nelms was a youth pastor at Pacific Coast Church in San Clemente from 1990 to 2000. At the time of his arrest, Nelms was a volunteer Bible study teacher at First Baptist Church in Lindale, Texas, and a counselor for high school students at Sky Ranch, a Christian camp and ministry, according to the news release.

His whereabouts after leaving San Clemente and prior to arriving in Texas are unknown at this time, prosecutors said.

Anyone with additional information should contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Lou Gutierrez at 714-347-8794.

See also: "Former youth pastor charged with sexual assault," ABP, 3/24/11

SBP Note: First Baptist Church in Lindale, Texas is shown as being affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The website for Pacific Coast Church in San Clemente shows that the church was originally called First Baptist Church of San Clemente.