Friday, July 20, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Youth pastor: sex charges

A Battle Creek youth pastor was arrested Wednesday on charges of using a computer to solicit a child for sex, the Michigan attorney general's office said.

Troy Deal, 34, director of youth ministries at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, was arrested Wednesday morning following an investigation that began in 2005.

Investigators said he used a computer to suggest sex with someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl. He actually was corresponding with an investigator from the AG's Child Public Protection Unit.

He was arrested at the church, 157 Chapel Hill Drive, and taken to the Calhoun County jail by investigators from the AG's office and Battle Creek police. He is expected to be arraigned in Calhoun County District Court this afternoon.

Investigators seized Deal's laptop computer.

Deal faces 11 charges, according to Matt Frendewey, a spokesman for Attorney General Mike Cox.

Deal is to be charged with using the Internet to solicit a child for sexually abusive activity, distributing sexually abusive material to the child and nine counts of using the Internet to communicate with a child for immoral purposes.

If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Deal has been youth ministries director for five years. Chapel Hill Rev. James Gysel on Wednesday declined comment on Deal's arrest.

Gysel reportedly met with youths and their parents Wednesday evening. An all-church meeting is planned for 7 p.m. today.

"We are alleging that the defendant spoke with a 14-year-old girl who was actually an undercover agent with the Attorney General's office," Frendewey said. "He was chatting with the agent and during the many chats solicited the 14-year-old girl for sexual activity."

Although Frendewey said he could not provide many details of the case, he said the complaint alleges Deal solicited the person who he thought was an underage girl to show pictures of herself and so is charged with distribution of pornography.

Deal had not proposed a meeting, Frendewey said.

"We have agents in the office and work undercover and pose as minors," Frendewey said. "They (suspects) reach out to use and they reach out to the 14-year-olds."

He said agents had a half dozen contacts with Deal between Sept. 21, 2005, and April 10, 2007.

"Progressively, the defendant became more aggressive," Frendewey said.

The investigation has only been about the online activity and there is no evidence any children from the church were involved, Frendewey said.

Because of Deal's position as a youth pastor, Frendewey said investigators took a close look at the possibility that children were victims.

"Being in the position he was in we make sure our office takes a look at it," Frendewey said. "It is every parent's greatest fear and that is why the attorney general is so committed to taking people like that off the street."

LINK