Sunday, 21 April 2024

Youth group leader arrested for alleged sexual advances toward teen

FINLEY – A local youth group leader was arrested over the weekend and charged with several felonies for allegedly making sexual advances toward a teenage girl who was a member of his youth group.

Deputies arrested 23-year-old Christopher Andrew Puryear of Kelseyville at Gateway Ministries in Finley, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Last Friday night, sheriff's deputies responded to reports that an adult youth group leader at the church – known formerly as Big Valley Community Church, located on Big Valley Road – had been having inappropriate relations with at least one minor female youth group member.

Bauman said both a church elder and another youth group leader alleged that Puryear was spending an inordinate amount of time talking with and texting teenage girls involved in the youth group.

Deputies learned that on Nov. 25, Puryear had allegedly asked a 14-year-old female member of the youth group to come outside during a church function to talk, according to Bauman's report. When Puryear and the girl went outside, he allegedly made physical and sexual advances towards her and only stopped when he was interrupted by someone else exiting the church.

After several attempts to locate the 14-year-old girl the following day, deputies were able to interview the victim and positively identify the suspect as Puryear, Bauman said.

On Saturday evening, Puryear was located by deputies at the church where the offenses were reportedly committed and he was arrested, according to the report.

Puryear was subsequently booked at the Lake County Jail on felony charges of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a child, forced oral copulation with a child, criminal threats and annoying a child under 18.

He remains in the Lake County Jail on an enhanced bail of $250,000.

The case is pending further investigation, including the identification of any other potential victims associated with the Gateway Ministries youth group, Bauman said.

The church did not return a message seeking comment.

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