NewsPasco County


Former Pasco Co. youth pastor arrested for sexual battery on teen in 2009

Posted at 12:47 PM, Feb 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-12 19:13:31-05

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — The Pasco County Sheriff's Office arrested a youth pastor on Monday for sexual battery on a 17-year-old boy.

Deputies said 38-year-old Jeremiah Joseph Smith, currently a teacher for grades 6 through 12 at Genesis Prep School in New Port Richey, sexually battered the victim, who was 17 at the time, in September 2009.

The victim told deputies that Smith was his youth pastor at First United Methodist Church in Hudson for several years and that he would often spend time at Smith's home.

During his visits, on at least eight occasions, Smith would tell the victim to take off his clothes and go into the laundry room, according to an arrest report.

“The victim is now an adult and wanted to get closure to this incident," said Sgt. Michael Rosa.

While in the laundry room, the victim said Smith would give him full body massages that lasted around 30 to 45 minutes. The arrest report goes on to say that Smith would "move the victim's genitals out of the way while carrying out the massages."

The victim told deputies that on September 12, 2009 Smith told him "you know the drill" after telling him to go into the laundry room. After going into the room, the victim said Smith took his clothes off except for his underwear, then straddled him and massaged him with baby oil.

Deputies said during that massage Smith battered the teenage boy then got dressed and left the room.

During a controlled phone call, Smith repeatedly apologized to the victim and acknowledged that he made a "series of horrible decisions."

When deputies contacted Smith on Monday, February 11, 2019, he admitted to giving the victim a massage on one occasion but claimed it happened when the boy was 18 years old.

The principal at Genesis Preparatory School just found out about the arrest for an alleged crime that happened years before he worked at her school.

“We are all numb The well-being and security of our students is key here," said principal Antonia Hapsis-Ladas.

The Sheriff’s office says there is no statute of limitations on this type of crime.

They say there is no evidence of any other victims at First United or the Journey Church in New Port Richey where Smith was also a pastor.

Investigators say they also haven't found any victims at Genesis Prep.

“All of our faculty members have all been finger printed, have gone through the process being checked. Nothing of this sort came up when we had Mr. Smith checked," said Hapsis-Ladas.

“It takes a lot of bravery to come forward and say that you were abused of a sexual crime. However if that’s something you are thinking about doing we want to help you with that," said Rosa.

Genesis Prep sent an email home letting parents know what happened.

They are planning an assembly to talk with the children.