JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 30-year-old Jacksonville man was arrested late Wednesday after he was accused of inappropriately touching a child younger than 12 at a church.
Justin Hughes is charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of a child.
Jacksonville police were called to the Victory Chapel Christian Church, where the incident reportedly happened, and Hughes was taken into custody.
Witnesses said Hughes told several people he had inappropriately touched the victim.
The assistant pastor at Victory Chapel said someone within the church was informed of the accusations against Hughes, and church officials then reported it to police.
Hughes appeared in court Friday morning, where an apparent loved one of the victim spoke.
"I actually wanted to say something to Justin. I just want to tell him that me and my family forgives him. God has forgiven me for so much," the loved one said, breaking down in tears.
The person's relationship to the victim was not clear.
The judge thanked the man for coming and ordered Hughes to be held without bond. His next court date was set for Feb. 21.
A neighbor told News4Jax Hughes is a quiet man and a friendly neighbor in an area filled with children.
"He’s never really seemed untoward in any way," Elizabeth Porter said. "As a mom, it's pretty scary. I have a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old that literally have played outside next to him."
Porter said she will be even more vigilant with her children now.
“I will never, ever leave them unattended, not that I really did before," Porter said. "But I will make sure I am out here with them all the time."