Cops: Lake church deacon sexually abused girl

Orlando Sentinel

By Erica Rodriguez, Orlando Sentinel
6:36 p.m. EDT, March 28, 2014

A Lake County church deacon turned himself into authorities Friday after a girl younger than 10 years old told investigators that he sexually battered her in a tree house behind his home.

Lake County sheriff’s investigators believe 65-year-old Thomas Warren Halsey sexually battered the girl at his Leesburg home.

Halsey had been a deacon with First Baptist Church of Leesburg for the last two years, said Art Ayris, the church’s executive pastor, but is now being removed from that position.

In an interview with investigators, the girl said Halsey told her to inappropriately touch him in the tree house and under the sheets while she was on his bed. The girl also told investigators Halsey exposed himself to her in the tree house. She detailed much of the abuse then stopped short by telling investigators the incident was “creepy” and she did not want to further discuss it, according to an arrest report.

Halsey told investigators in an interview that the girl more than once touched him inappropriately without his consent, once under the covers in his bed and another time while he was holding her baby sister. Halsey also told investigators the girl once asked him to take off his clothes and she would runaway if he did not agree. Halsey said after every incident he made the girl’s mother aware of the behavior, which she denied.

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