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Saturday, August 16, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Youth ministers accused of raping teenage girls

Maryville - It's a crime you hate to hear about. Your children violated at church where they're supposed to be the safest.

Two married youth leaders are accused of raping teenage girls. Police tell us there could be even more victims.

A sign on the door of the Lord's Disciples Church on Old Knoxville Highway in Maryville tells visitors all services and activities are canceled until further notice. This after two of their youth ministers are charged with eight counts of sexual battery and rape with 15-year-old girls.

"It's even more disturbing cause it's right here at home," Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp said.

Chief crisp says last Tuesday, three teens, their parents and a youth pastor came to police alleging sexual misconduct by church youth leaders Michael and Laura Salazar, both 35 years old, of Wrights Road in Louisville. After extensive interviews, police say four teens claim they allegedly took part in sex acts with the Salazars dating back to September 2007.

"When these types of crimes happen against children they're reluctant to talk about it," Crisp said. "We're proud of the courage they've presented and come forward and talked."

We briefly spoke to the pastor today outside the church. He says they're not trying to hide anything, they're just trying to figure out what's going on, but in the meantime services are canceled and police believe there may be more victims out there.

"We feel strongly about the evidence and anticipate there will be additional charges," Crisp said.

In the meantime, the Salazars are behind bars at Blount County jail.

The Salazars are set to appear in Blount County Sessions Court Friday at 9 a.m.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A Maryville church has closed it's doors indefinitely after a married couple, who are youth ministers at the church, are charged with sex crimes.

Michael Salazar, 35, is charged with three counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, and three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure.

Laura Lee Click Salazar, 35, is charged with one count of sexual battery by an authority figure, and one count of statutory rape by an authority figure.

Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp says this investigation began on Aug. 15 when three teen girls, their parents, and their youth pastor, accused the Salazar's of sexual misconduct.

That's when officials conducted an official investigation interviewing four teenage girls who say the Salazars took part in individual sex acts beginning in September 2007.

At the church, there is a note on the door saying they're closed until further notice.

Pastor Keith Briefly says his church is very hurt by this event.

Police Chief Crisp says the case is under investigation.

Chief Crisp says there may be more victims, and he is asking for them to come forward.

"Certainly it is sickening and troubling that this is going on anywhere, and especially in our neighborhood. it's even more disturbing, right here at home, but we've done a very diligent investigation."

Michael Salazar's bond is set for $300,000, Laura Lee Click Salazar's bond is set for $100,000.