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Director Of Youth Charged With Child Molesting
Updated May 5, 2013 12:12 AM
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(NEW PALESTINE) - The director of youth ministries at a Hancock County church was charged Tuesday with child molesting and sexual misconduct with a minor after a 16-year-old girl reported incidents she said happened in 2009 and 2010.

RTV6 reports, 60-year-old Steven Harding was in the youth ministries position at the New Palestine United Methodist Church. He was no longer listed on the church's website as of Wednesday afternoon.

The girl and her parents had been in contact with the Department of Child Services. The Hancock County Sheriff's Department was called in to investigate in April.

The girl told police that Harding, a friend of her family, touched her inappropriately at his home in 2009.

"(The girl) advised she had stayed the night at Hardin's residents (and) indicated that while she was in bed, Harding came in the bedroom and told her that he wished she could stay with him and that he loved her," read part of a probable cause affidavit.

Harding and the girl then had sexual intercourse, prosecutors said.

A second incident happened later at the church, the girl told police.

"(The girl) advised that Harding had rubbed her breasts ... and put his hand down her pants," the probable cause affidavit read.

Interviewed in April, Harding denied the allegations, prosecutors said. He took a polygraph test in November, and investigators concluded that he was lying when he denied having inappropriate contact with the girl.

The New Palestine United Methodist church said in a statement Wednesday that officials are cooperating fully with authorities.

"We deeply regret any pain or embarrassment this incident has caused to either the complainant and family or to Steve and the Harding family. We hold them all earnestly and caringly in our prayers," the statement read.

Community members were shocked by the allegations.

"He's supposed to be preaching the word of God. It's pretty sad," T.J. Thompson said.

"I'd be worried. I'd be kind of concerned about it," David Hash said. "It should be investigated and something should be done right away."



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