Church Founder: Victims Are "Great Kids;" Couple Get Lawyers

By Robert Wilson
Knoxville News Sentinel

August 15, 2008

[with video]

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MARYVILLE - A judge today appointed attorneys for a pair of church youth ministers charged with sexual abuse of teenage girls.

General Sessions Court Judge William R. Brewer appointed attorney Stacey Nordquist to represent Laura Lee Click Salazar.

Attorney Troy Boling will represent her husband, Michael R. Salazar. Both are 35.

The Salazars face charges they committed statutory rape and sexual battery against three teenage girls at their apartment near Alcoa. The girls attended The Lord's Disciples Church, where the Salazars were youth ministers.

Assistant District Public Defender Stacey Nordquist talks with her client Laura Lee Click Salazar
Photo by J. Miles Cary

At least 20 church members appeared to be in attendance at today's hearing.

Lamar Calley, a minister at the church whose duties include a ministry at Brushy Mountain prison, said the case caught the church off guard and that members had no idea such abuse might be happening.

He said of the 25 or so youth at the church, parents have pulled all the girls out of the group.

David Hutsell, a founder of the church, said the congregation has 100 to 120 members. He also emphasized the victims are all "great kids."

Michael Salazar's hair was tinted blue in court this morning; his wife's had a pink tinge.

Another court hearing was set for Sept. 8 and they remain in custody on bond of $300,000 for him and $100,000 for her.

Michael R. Salazar sits in court Friday morning
Photo by J. Miles Cary

Michael Salazar faces three counts each of sexual battery by an authority figure and statutory rape by an authority figure. He is being held on $50,000 bond for each of the six charges.

Laura Lee Salazar faces one count each of the same charges, and her bond is the same per count as her husband's.

Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp has said that three other girls have come forward and said they, too, have been victims of the Salazars, in addition to the ones named in the charges - a total of six victims.

Crisp said additional charges may be forthcoming when the investigation is complete.

The chief said Thursday that the Salazars have no criminal record that he is aware of, and he declined to specify what physical evidence was gathered in a search of the couple's apartment on Wrights Ferry Road, where the alleged sexual liaisons reportedly occurred starting in June 2007.

Crisp has said that his agency was alerted to the case when another church official brought the three alleged victims and their parents to the police department.

The case has spurred church officials to suspend all services and activities at the church, located at East Broadway and Old Knoxville Pike.

More details as they develop online and in Saturday's News Sentinel.


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