According to The Christian Post, a former pastor at Chets Creek Church, a multi-campus Southern Baptist megachurch in Florida, “was recently arrested for allegedly grooming and sexually molesting a young girl from the age of 12 until she turned 17.”
Jeff Bedwell, a former pastor at the church’s Southside campus, was “terminated more than two years ago for issues unrelated to the current charges now made against him,” Senior Pastor Spike Hogan said in a statement.
Records from the Duval County jail, where Bedwell is being held on a $500,000 bond, show that he was charged with four counts. Those charges are the transmission of materials harmful to minors, one count of unlawful sexual activity, one count of lewd and lascivious molestation of a minor between the age of 12 and 16 and one count of lewd and lascivious sexual battery on a minor between the age of 12 and 16.
According to an arrest report cited by The Florida Times-Union, Bedwell’s alleged crimes began in 2013 and ended in 2018. The church said his employment was terminated in 2019.
Bedwell, 38, reportedly began using text messages and Snapchat to get closer to the girl when she was 12, and then began grooming her after she turned 13 “with text messages, photos and sexual conversations during which he allegedly requested inappropriate photos,” The Post reported.
By the time she was 14, the exchanges allegedly escalated to include videos. The pastor is accused of having two alleged sexual encounters with the girl when she was 14.
Bedwell allegedly continued sexually assaulting the victim at his home and inside his vehicle until she turned 17, according to the arrest report. Bedwell has been at the Duval County jail since July 8. He is expected to answer the charges in court on July 29.
Since Bedwell’s arrest, Chets Creek Church has scrubbed most of their association with him from their website and social media. It was still unclear Tuesday how law enforcement was alerted of Bedwell’s alleged crimes. A request from CP to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for further details remains pending.
Image credit: Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office