Former church volunteer pleads not guilty to sexual abuse charges

Wand17 TV [Decatur IL]

March 9, 2021

Brandon Tovar, 36,was a volunteer children’s worker at Heartland Community Church in Decatur.

According to police, a child alerted their mother to Tovar sleeping alone and cuddling with her friend, who is under 13 years old. The child found sexual messages between Tovar and the victim that happened on Snapchat, according to a sworn statement. 

Police received copies of the messages and an apology Tovar had sent to the mother after the Snapchat conversation was reported. 

Tovar told police the church pastor had confronted him on accusations that he held hands with a minor, texted a female under 16 years old and took pictures of boys in their underwear at the church. 

Tovar faces charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, predatory criminal sexual assault and battery. 

Heartland officials said in an October 2020 statement to WAND News they had removed Tovar from contact with children when they learned of any inappropriate behavior, “all of which took place outside of the normal function of the church.” 

Brandon Tovar
Brandon Tovar

Regarding the pictures Tovar allegedly took involving boys, Pastor Joe Bowman told WAND News the pictures were “casual photos” taken in a setting where he was camp leader. he said to “assume they were staged would be incorrect.” 

Pretrial in Tovar’s case has been set for April 21, 2021.