MULBERRY, Fla. - Ricardo Navarro knew the teen girl as a youth group member. Ed Demoreta knew her as his middle school student who also attended his church. Both faces charges for sex acts with her on the same church property in Mulberry.
"And neither of them knew the other was engaging this child in sex," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
First Assembly Ministries' Wednesday night youth group program, according to members, is thriving.
Some 40 or so kids show up every week.
But for 12-year-old Nathan Harper, last Wednesday may have been his last.
"I don't know if I'll go back," he said.
He's heard rumors about "Pastor Ed," arrested for receiving oral sex three times from a youth group member last year, one time in the church parking lot.
"We will be very intentional in continuing to protect the integrity of our young people," said Senior Pastor Lee Thomas.
According to Thomas, the church alerted law enforcement as soon as they found out.
Investigators claim Demoreta confessed to the sex acts after learning a prior youth pastor, Navarro, was being investigated for similar behavior with the same girl.
Navarro is accused of fondling the girl inside the church, then a year later, asking her to text him "sexy" pictures.
Still, Thomas wants parents to feel safe sending their kids to his church's youth functions. "Because we're going to act in their best interest," he said. "They should feel safe. Yes."
Harper doesn't, and he's not alone. Several youth group members told ABC Action News they are shocked and disappointed.
"I just don't want anything to happen to me," the 12-year-old said.
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