‘Epitome of a wolf in sheep’s clothing,’ former Bentonville youth minister gets 60 years for sexual abuse of boys

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette [Little Rock AR]

February 25, 2023

By Tracy Neal

A teenage boy stood in a courtroom Friday and confronted the youth minister who sexually assaulted him and other boys.

The boy, identified as Victim No. 1 in court, told Keenan Hord he didn’t feel any hatred toward him — only indifference.

Hord, dressed in white and black jail clothing, stood nearby but didn’t look at the teen.

Hord, 33, of Centerton was a youth minister at Bentonville First Baptist Church.

He pleaded guilty to nine counts of sexual assault; three counts of distributing, possessing or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child; and sexual indecency with a child. Ryan Jewell and Ben Catterlin, Hord’s attorneys, reached a plea agreement with Joshua Robinson, senior deputy prosecutor, to resolve the case.

Hord admitted to sexually assaulting the boys and possessing photographs or videos of nude boys.

Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren sentenced Hord to 6o years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections. He’ll be eligible for parole after serving 15 years in prison.

The boy told Hord he hadn’t only harmed his home life but ruined his school year.

The teen said he will be 33 years old when Hord could be released from prison.

“I will also be in jail,” the teen said. “I will be there advocating for you not to get out on parole. See you in 15 years.”

He then left the courtroom.

The boy’s mother spoke next. She told Hord he had taken advantage of her son and stolen his innocence. She said her memories are now mixed with guilt because she couldn’t protect her son from Hord.

She described Hord as a selfish narcissistic predator who impersonated a youth minister to sexually assault her son.

“You don’t have the nerve to look me in the eyes,” she said. Hord didn’t look at her.

Robinson read a statement from one of the six victims. The boy identified as Victim No. 3 said in his statement his family and friends trusted Hord.

The mother of another boy said her son looked up to Hord as a teacher, mentor and friend. She said Hord used his position in the church to harm her son.

Several people cried as the victim impact statements were delivered.

A third mother said they were happy to have a youth pastor who invested so much time in the students. She said her family let Hord into their homes. He fooled so many people, she said.

“This man knew these boys worshipped him, and he took full advantage of them,” the mom said. “Some of the boys didn’t know what he was doing was wrong.”

She said Hord spent months grooming and then preying on the boys.

A fourth mother said her son is now quiet, withdrawn and depressed. She said being angry at Hord would be a waste of energy, and she believes God put Hord in their path for him to be stopped.

Robinson read a statement from Victim No. 5’s mother.

“You have made it that we will never trust a soul again,” she said. “You are the epitome of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Karren gave Hord an opportunity to speak. He paused for several minutes in the silent courtroom.

“From the deepest part of me, I would like to say I’m sorry,” Hord said as he asked for forgiveness.

Karren said he hopes the plea provides some closure for the victims and the families.

Hord was arrested in August.

Bentonville police received a tip through the Arkansas State Police child abuse hotline Aug. 19, according to a news release from the Bentonville Police Department.

James Boothman, a Bentonville detective, testified at Hord’s bond hearing police served a search warrant and seized several electronic devices. Boothman said police had spoken to six victims and identified up to 30 possible victims with an examination of Hord’s cellphone.

Bentonville police Sgt. Josh Woodhams testified at the bond hearing he examined a cellphone belonging to one of the boys that revealed a romantic and sexual relationship between Hord and the boy.

Hord has served on the staffs of at least two Southern Baptist churches, most recently First Baptist Bentonville, where he joined the staff in 2016 and became student pastor in 2018, according to Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.