Church Youth Leader's Bond Reduced in Sexual Abuse Cases

By Jessica Stith
Daily Times
September 8, 2008

Two married youth leaders charged with having inappropriate sexual activity with juvenile girls who attended their church appeared in court today and bonds were reduced for one of the youth leaders.

Michael Roy Salazar and Laura Lee Click Salazar, both 35, of Wrights Road, Louisville, appeared before Judge William R. Brewer in Blount County General Sessions Court. They were taken into custody on Aug. 6 and Michael Salazar was charged with three counts of sexual battery by an authority figure and three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure. Laura Salazar was charged with one count each of sexual battery by an authority figure and statutory rape by an authority figure.

The charges stem from allegations made by six juvenile girls who attended Lord's Disciple Church, 2002 Old Knoxville Pike, Maryville, where the Salazars have attended on and off for nine years and have been youth leaders for three years.

The Salazars appeared with their defense attorneys on Monday and mutually agreed on a preliminary hearing date for the couple at 9 a.m. Oct. 14 — pointing out that both will be tried separately. Michael Salazar was previously appointed Troy L. Bowlin II to represent him and Laura Salazar was appointed Stacey Nordquist of the Blount County Public Defender's Office.

Through an agreement between the state and Nordquist, Laura Salazar's bond was to be reduced from a total of $100,000 to $20,000, with bond restrictions.

Bond restrictions

The restrictions include that she have no contact — directly, indirectly or by third party — with victims or witnesses of her criminal cases or of Michael Salazar's criminal cases. She is also required to have no direct or indirect contact with her husband and co-defendant Michael Salazar.

Laura Salazar will also be required to report to pre-trial release if she is able to make her new bond. Michael Salazar's bonds remained at $300,000.

According to earlier reports from the Maryville Police Department, Donna West, youth pastor at the church, came to the police department with three juvenile females and their parents on Aug. 5 with allegations of sexual misconduct while attending the church.

The three 16-year-old girls, one from Maryville and two from Rockford, reported that they participated in sexual acts with either Michael Salazar, or both youth leaders, between September 2007 and June this year. A 15-year-old girl made similar allegations a day later. All four said they were 15 years old when the acts occurred.

Since then, two other girls came forward and said they were also victims. Charges have not been brought against the Salazars on behalf of the last three girls who reported the alleged crimes, but more charges may be brought against the Salazars through a Blount County grand jury.



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