2 More Girls Possibly Sexually Abused by Church Youth Leaders

By Robert Wilson
Knoxville News Sentinel

August 14, 2008

MARYVILLE - As the investigation continues into alleged child sex abuse involving a Maryville church's youth leaders, two more teens' names have been added to the list of possible victims.

Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp confirmed the addition of the two names, bringing the list of victims to five.

No charges have been filed in connection with the two new alleged cases, and Crisp said that probably will not happen until the investigation is complete and the cases are turned over to a grand jury.

David Hutsell, one of the founders of The Lord's Disciples Church, near the intersection of East Broadway and Old Knoxville Highway, said Wednesday that the entire sequence of events "blindsided us. We had no knowledge" of any problems with the youth program.

"Not a one said anything," he said.

Michael R. Salazar and his wife, Laura Lee Click Salazar, both 35, have been charged in connection with the case.

Michael Salazar faces charges of sexual battery by an authority figure and statutory rape by an authority figure involving each of three teenage girls who attended the church. He is in the Blount County Detention Facility on $300,000 bond - $50,000 for each offense.

Laura Lee Salazar faces the same two charges involving only one girl, and her bond totals $100,000.

The Salazars will face a court hearing Friday before General Sessions Judge David Duggan, who was elected last week to the Blount County Circuit Court bench that hears criminal cases. Duggan will be sworn in Sept. 1.

Court documents in the case state that the rape charges involved penetration and that the offenses occurred at the Salazars' home on Wrights Ferry Road beginning in September 2007.

Crisp said Wednesday that his officers are still trying to determine how many young people may be involved in the case.

"All sex crimes are more difficult to work," Crisp said. "You've got to ask tough questions." He added that there is no information to suggest that any abuse occurred outside the church group.

Hutsell said the church has a youth group with about 20 members and that the allegations have thrown the entire church "off balance. I cannot imagine this happening."

The Salazars had been working with the youths of the church - known locally as the bikers' church - for about two years, Hutsell said. The cinder-block church building is decorated on the outside with murals depicting motorcyclists in religious settings.


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