LAKELAND, Fla. — A youth minister in Polk County was arrested Monday for allegedly attempting to have sex with a minor who attended his church.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Andrew Weaver, 29, of Lakeland and youth pastor at Highlands Church of Christ in Lakeland was arrested on charges of allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old girl in his youth group.
According to Judd, the victim told detectives that Weaver had been counseling her. The victim said she told Weaver she had sexual fantasies and when Weaver allegedly asked if any involved him, the victim said yes. Judd said the victim showed nude pictures of herself to Weaver on her phone.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said the victim told them she and Weaver went to a nearby motel in late December. A maid allegedly knocked on the door and Sheriff Judd said this frightened Weaver and the two of them left. Judd said Weaver told detectives he thought he had “crossed a line” with the victim.
"Youth ministers are entrusted with mentoring our children. This minister betrayed that trust and he must be held accountable,” Sheriff Judd said. “Thankfully, the church leadership did the right thing by reporting his inappropriate behavior."
The Highlands Church of Christ released a statement that said, “Last week we became aware of allegations of our Student Minister being involved in criminal conduct and we reported this to the Florida Department of Children and Family and to the Polk County Sheriff's Office. His employment has been terminated and we are cooperating with the investigation being conducted by the Sheriff's office. We are devastated by what has occurred and we are praying for healing for our church and for those involved.”
Weaver faces two charges: attempted unlawful sex with a minor and interference with child custody.