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Friday, July 20, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Youth pastor arrested for rape

A part-time youth pastor from Aztec Bible Baptist Church was arrested Thursday on charges that he had sex with a 14-year-old girl from his congregation.

Wendel Nix, 29, of Aztec, was taken into police custody at the San Juan County Detention Center on Thursday after San Juan Sheriff's Office deputies said they gathered convincing evidence that a crime was committed and obtained an arrest warrant, Detective Lt. Tyler Truby said.

Since last weekend, sheriff's deputies and Detective Marlyn Wyatt have investigated a claim made by a teenage girl that she and Nix had a sexual relationship, states a media release from the sheriff's office.

The victim alleged that she has attended the church for the past year, and over time, she and Nix grew close. Last month, Nix began sending her text messages saying how good he thought she looked and how well her clothing fit her, states the affidavit for an arrest warrant. Then he began calling her, hoping to get her away from her friends so that he could familiarize himself with what he called the "real her," the affidavit states.

After agreeing to take a drive into the hills with Nix at the end of last month, the victim said Nix kissed her, but then she became scared and demanded she be taken home. A few days later, after exchanging more electronic correspondence, they arranged another meeting and Nix picked up the girl and headed out toward Navajo Dam, the arrest affidavit states.

That was when the first of several sexual encounters the pair would have took place, according to police documents. This sexual relationship is believed to have lasted until Saturday, July 14, when the victim decided to put an end to it.

When asked why the girl eventually contacted police, Truby said that her friends and family members successfully persuaded her of the criminal nature of the exchanges.

"Just from visiting from friends and family, they had convinced her what had taken place was wrong," Truby said.

Nix faces four counts of criminal sexual penetration in the second degree and five counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor in the third degree. Bond for Nix was set at $300,000.

Truby said all criminal charges of a sexual nature that involve a minor are disturbing, but they are even harsher when the perpetrator is someone who is a trusted member of the community.

"It's always very disheartening when the suspect is somebody that has been placed in a position of authority and mentorship and (is supposed to) give children guidance," he said.