HAYS COUNTY, Texas — A former deacon of the Hays Hills Baptist Church who was charged and arrested last week under allegations that he sexually abused at least six girls has now been booked in the Hays County Jail after previously bonding out of Austin Police Department custody.
Hays County records indicate Charles Sweet was booked on May 22 under the charge of indecency with a child by sexual contact. He was then released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond.
According to the Austin Police Department, 85-year-old Charles Sweet was also charged with two counts of indecency with a child by contact. His bond was set at $200,000 and $100,000 for those charges last week.
He bonded out on May 16, according to his attorney David Glickler. He was then placed on house arrest with an electronic monitor and was under "no contact" restrictions, as well as distance restrictions from schools and churches, according to Glickler.
His administrative hearing is scheduled for May 30.
In a statement, Hays Hills Baptist Church said it learned that Sweet sexually abused a member of his family almost seven years ago. When it became aware of the abuse, the church reported it to the police and an investigation was launched. The church said it then began to cooperate with the investigation and followed police council on how to notify its congregation.
"It has always been our desire to be transparent with the congregation while also protecting the privacy of the victim," said a spokesperson for the church. "So, at our members’ meeting on September 9, 2012, we notified the congregation that due to grievous sin we were not only removing Charles Sweet from membership, but that he would no longer be allowed to attend Hays Hills."
At this point, investigators continued their investigation but no charge or arrest was made.
Court documents state the 2012 investigation was suspended due to a parent's concern for their daughter's mental and emotional wellbeing. Police contacted that victim earlier this year upon learning that more women were coming forward with allegations, and she agreed to reopen the case.
The church said it now believes Sweet will be charged with sexually abusing six girls who are now young women. The spokesperson said Hays Hills Baptist Church is not aware of any abuse that occurred on the church's campus.
"As members of the body of Christ, we want to demonstrate Christ’s care and compassion to these women," said the church. "We want to take this opportunity to ask for prayer for the victims and their families. We are heartbroken by the pain of this circumstance and desire justice and healing for all."
The remainder of the church's statement can be read below:
"Hays Hills Baptist Church will not tolerate abuse of any kind and ensuring the health and safety of our children and students is of paramount importance. At Hays Hills, all allegations of sexual abuse are reported to appropriate law enforcement and child protection authorities. In addition, we are committed to providing counseling and spiritual care to any impacted by past abuse. We recognize the critical importance of treating sexual abuse seriously and its victims with compassion. We intend to speak with transparency and to honor Christ in the way we care for any who have experienced past abuse.
We believe that this circumstance can be redeemed for good; we see this as an opportunity to emphasize the call of the church to be a safe harbor for children and youth. To this end, we are offering to provide professional counseling to the girls, now women, who were abused by this man who was once in our midst. As well, we are partnering with MinistrySafe, national experts in child sexual abuse issues, to provide training to staff members and volunteers serving minors at Hays Hills.
Above all else, we are concerned for the victims. If additional information is desired, please contact Pastor Aaron Kahler at the church office or by email: email@example.com."
In a press conference on May 15, Austin police said the investigation was initiated by the Hays County Sheriff's Department in January when it received reports from a now grown woman that she was sexually abused by the suspect. The suspect was the same from a separate 2012 investigation by the APD, which then reopened the case. Police believe both of these women were sexually abused by Sweet as children.
Upon interviewing Sweet, police said more adult female survivors were identified who were reportedly abused at his Austin home and in the Buda-Kyle area of Hays County. Police have contacted those survivors and are awaiting returned calls from them. Police said all of his reported victims were female.
Though they could not confirm the total number of victims, police said the alleged crimes took place in the 1990s and early 2000s. In those years, police said Sweet was affiliated with a Hays County church and conducted ministry work outside of the church. That ministry work involved young children including Bible studies and tutoring.
Police said the victims, whose ages ranged from about six years old to 12, are within the statute of limitations.
A next-door neighbor at Sweet's southwest Austin home was completely shocked to hear of the allegations.
"We helped them rake leaves a couple of times. Didn't ever get together with them socially. So it was pretty much just neighborly waving from the yard," Mary Guzman told KVUE. "I had no knowledge or no indication or no idea that anything like that was going on."
In addition to being a deacon at the church at one point, the church's current pastor said Sweet is the father of the church's former senior pastor.
Police ask anyone who may have been victimized by the suspect to contact them at (512) 974-6880, or the Hays County Sheriff's Office at (512) 393-7896.