NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (FOX 13) - A former youth pastor in Pasco County has been accused of sexually battering a teenager, deputies said.
Pasco County deputies arrested 38-year-old Jeremiah Joseph Smith, who was a youth pastor at the time of the incident, officials said. Investigators said the sexual battery occurred in 2009 when the victim was 17 years old. The victim told detectives that Smith was his youth pastor through his church, the First United Methodist Church of Hudson, for several years.
According to Smith’s arrest affidavit, the victim spent time at his home. During those times, Smith had asked the victim to remove his clothes in order to give a full body massage, detectives said. This occurred on at least eight occasions, they said.
Officials said on September 12, 2009, Smith told him to remove his clothes again, stating, “You know the drill,” according to his affidavit. However, this time, detectives said, the victim was sexually battered.
Smith admitted during an interview on Monday that he gave the victim a massage, but only on one occasion, detectives said. Smith said the incident occurred when the victim was 18 years old, they added. It's unclear what prompted the recent investigation.
Jeremiah Smith’s bio could still be found on the website of Genesis Preparatory School in New Port Richey, where he once worked. His mug shot comes as a major shock to his boss.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” said Principal Antonia Hapsis-Ladas. “I myself have my daughter at our sister school.”
The school sent letters home with parents.
“He’s not on campus and won’t be returning to the school,” Hapis-Ladas said. “We are trying to wrap our heads around things thing and make sure our students are safe and well.”
Smith was arrested for sexual battery on Monday.