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story.lead_photo.caption Derek Smittle

BENTONVILLE -- A former volunteer youth minister was sentenced to probation and jail time after admitting to sexually assaulting a 17-year-old church member.

Derek L. Smittle, 31, of Centerton pleaded guilty Monday to sexual assault.

Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green placed Smittle on 10 years of probation and sentenced him to 119 days in the Benton County Jail. He also must pay $1,670 in court costs.

He will be required to register as a sex offender.

Smittle was a volunteer at First Baptist Centerton, according to court documents. Bentonville police began the investigation Jan. 9 after they received a report from the Arkansas State Police's child abuse hotline, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The caller identified Smittle as a youth pastor and Sunday School teacher and said the girl attended the church and Smittle's ministry, according to the affidavit. The caller was concerned because of the position of trust and authority Smittle had at the church, according to the affidavit.

A clergy member at the church told J.C. Wiseman, a Bentonville police detective, that Smittle admitted he had a sexual affair with one of his students, according to the affidavit.

The girl told police she and Smittle had been having a secret relationship for 15 months, but they didn't have sex until Oct. 11, 2018, according to the affidavit.

Tyler Williams, deputy prosecutor, read a victim impact statement on behalf of the teen.

"You were supposed to be my Sunday school teacher and teach me the meaning of love, but you were not the example you pretended to be," Williams read. "I reached out to you as my leader to talk about my problems, and you took advantage of that. You asked me to keep secrets that seemed harmless to start with, but secrets are never harmless."

The girl said in her statement Smittle destroyed her innocence and made her question her morals. She also said she was so emotionally devastated she wasn't able to focus.

"You were supposed to be an example to me, but you weren't," Williams read from the statement. "I wish you the best, but pray you don't ever speak to me again."

NW News on 12/03/2019

Print Headline: Former minister sentenced for sexually assaulting teen

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