Full List of Texas Pastors Charged With Abusing Children This Year

Newsweek [New York NY]

December 9, 2022

By Giulia Carbonaro

This year, at least 10 Texas pastors, former pastors and youth ministers were arrested, charged or convicted for various allegations of sexual abuse of children.

In November, 56-year-old David Lloyd Walther, a pastor for the Faith Baptist Church in Round Rock, was arrested for the distribution, receipt, transportation and possession of child pornography, as reported by the Austin American-Statesman. Walther, who told the FBI that he had a pornography addiction, faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

In the same month, a 31-year-old former student minister at the Champion Forest Baptist Church in Harris County was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to online sexual abuse of a child. Timothy Jason Jeltema pleaded guilty on November 17 to four charges of online sexual abuse of a minor—including one charge of indecency with a child—one charge of sexual performance by a child and two counts of online solicitation of a minor which were initially brought against him in 2018, according to the Baptist Press.

In July, 48-year-old Chad Michael Rider, of Anna, was convicted in the Eastern District of Texas for assisting former Denison pastor David Pettigrew produce child pornography. According to documents and testimony at the trial, Rider helped Pettigrew convince minors into taking sexually explicit photographs. He was found guilty of three counts of the sexual exploitation of children.

In the same month, pastor William C. Robinson, who at the time was working for Chi Alpha Campus Ministries in Corpus Christi, was charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child, to which he pleaded not guilty.

Also in July, Brian Pounds, a 45-year-old minister at First Assembly of God in Vernon, North Texas, was charged with sexual assault of a child and delivery of a controlled substance to a minor, according to Vernon police. Pounds denied having had sexual contact with the child, but the girl testified to the many times the minister had performed sex acts with her and given her meth.

Baytown pastor Lawrence Hopkins was arrested in late June with the charge of soliciting a minor online, according to Montgomery District Attorney’s Office. The arrest of the 55-year-old associate pastor at Rollingbrook Fellowship in Baytown was part of a multi-agency operation to capture individuals who have been “actively seeking to sexually exploit children via the internet in Montgomery County,” authorities said.

Following the pastor’s arrest, Rollingbrook Church sent a statement acknowledging the case and declaring that Hopkins’ employment at the church had been “immediately terminated.” The church thanked the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department for “their efforts to protect our children and pursue those who would seek to harm them” and announced they were “cooperating fully with the authorities.”

In April, the Nashville-based Southern Baptist news service Baptist Press reported that youth pastor Conner Jesse Penny, 32, had been arrested on three counts of sexual abuse related to a minor. According to the police report, Penny, who was employed at the Inspiration Church, formerly known as Mimosa Lane Baptist Church, in Mesquite at the time of the arrest, “had sexual contact with a female under the age of 17 years of age on multiple occasions between 2015 and 2018.”

In March, pastor’s son and Conroe church worship leader Jonathan Ryan Ensey, 37, was found guilty of victimizing a congregant by committing indecency with a child and online solicitation of a minor. He is serving eight years in prison, as both sentences were served concurrently.

In January, Aaron Duane Shipman, the 44-year-old lead pastor at Bible Baptist Church in Odessa, was charged with assaulting a teenage girl for years, beginning when she was 16. The woman, who’s currently 18, reported the case to the Odessa Police Department. The church, upon hearing about the arrest, issued a statement declaring that Shipman’s contract had been terminated.

In the same month, 61-year-old Houston-area pastor Conrad Estrada Valdez was charged of sexual assault of a child between the ages of 14 and 17, as reported by ABC. The case was brought forward in 2019 by a then-30-year-old woman who said she was sexually assaulted by Valdez when she was 15.

The cases reported so far are limited to the charges brought forward this year, and to the state of Texas. By expanding the search further back in time or beyond Texas’ borders, the list would grow much longer than the one compiled in this article.

In October, the North Texas megachurch Denton Bible Church released a 2019 investigation revealing that a former youth pastor sexually abused 14 girls at two different churches. The pastor, Rob Shiflet, was sentenced in 2021 to 33 months in federal prison for sexually assaulting two girls on church youth trips, and is now registered as a sex offender.

On December 1, a former youth pastor at a Southern Baptist church in Missouri was charged with six child abuse-related charges.

In May, a document released by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) revealed the case of more than 700 Baptist leaders—including pastors, teachers, ministers and volunteers—accused or found guilty of sexual abuse of children.

The 205-page document, which looks at cases dating back to a period between 2000 and 2009, details the arrests and—sometimes—sentencing of Baptist leaders found guilty of sexual assaults, soliciting children, child pornography and more.

According to SBC, the list is the result of an internal investigation by Guidepost Solutions aimed at uncovering the cover-ups of cases of sexual assaults which were allegedly kept quiet by the church’s higher-ups.

“This list is being made public for the first time as an initial, but important, step towards addressing the scourge of sexual abuse and implementing reform in the Convention,” a statement by SBC read. “Each entry in this list reminds us of the devastation and destruction brought about by sexual abuse. Our prayer is that the survivors of these heinous acts find hope and healing, and that churches will utilize this list proactively to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us.”

But the lack of a rigid structure within the SBC, which doesn’t have an established hierarchy, might make bringing the necessary change to the church difficult.

Newsweek has contacted the SBC for comment.