Former Youth Pastor Gets 21 Years for Sex Abuse

By Andy Kravetz
Journal Star
July 23, 2015

Nicholas Lawrence

A former youth pastor was sentenced Thursday to 21 years in prison for sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl last year.

Nicholas Lawrence, 27, apologized for his behavior over the nearly seven-month period that he engaged in the illicit conduct, saying it was selfish of him and inexcusable.

“The words ‘I am sorry’ just don’t seem strong enough,” he said, adding that he has worked to modify his behavior so he could deal with things in a more appropriate manner.

Prosecutor Donna Cruz pushed Peoria County Judge David Brown for a lengthy sentence and, during the 90-minute hearing, offered evidence that Lawrence had engaged in inappropriate conversations with two other young girls, had thousands of images of child porn and child erotica on his laptops and had manipulated the girl he abused for years.

“He acted as a friend and a mentor,” the prosecutor said of Lawrence. “He manipulated and deceived her to send him pictures of her body.”

Cruz cited one email sent by Lawrence to the girl where he offered to “guide her to understand her body so she could use it for God’s Glory.”

In May, Lawrence pleaded guilty to predatory criminal sexual assault of a child in an agreement that saw a lesser charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse dropped. Also, a companion charge that alleged Lawrence possessed child porn was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

There was no agreement on sentence, which meant Lawrence faced up to 60 years in prison. His attorney, Sam Snyder, argued for a lesser sentence, noting his client had no criminal history at all and had a good work ethic. Up until he started to engage in the inappropriate behavior, Snyder said, his client was a “model citizen.”

Police investigations revealed Lawrence had built a sexual relationship with the young girl over four years in contacts with her through youth Bible study classes at three churches, two in Peoria Heights and at First Church of God in Pekin, the affidavit stated.

He had been affiliated with Peoria Heights Congregational Church and Mount Hawley Community Church, according to Journal Star archives and Tazewell County court records. The assault as charged in the Peoria County case allegedly occurred from November 2013 until May 2014.

Lawrence’s legal woes aren’t over. He will be sentenced Aug. 12 in Tazewell County court on the same charge stemming from conduct that occurred in that county with the same girl. He faces up to 60 years in prison in that case, and it must be served consecutive to his Peoria County sentence.

In both cases, he must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence and also register as a sex offender.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.