JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Chets Creek Church issued a statement Wednesday after former youth pastor Jeff Bedwell was arrested last week and accused of sexual battery on a child.
“Chets Creek was shocked and devastated to learn of the charges made against a former member of its staff,” senior pastor Spike Hogan wrote in a statement to News4Jax.
According to an arrest report from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Bedwell worked at the Chets Creek Church on Hodges Boulevard and he and the victim became close when she was 12 years old.
Investigators said he began grooming her and they had sex when she was 14 years old. The sexual battery continued throughout her teenage years, according to JSO.
“Jeff Bedwell’s employment with the church was terminated more than two years ago for issues unrelated to the current charges now made against him,” said Hogan. “During his time with Chets, he was subjected to the same thorough vetting and background-check process that we require of all leaders, and there was no hint of criminal activity. Had we learned of, or had any reason to believe there was wrongdoing, we would have reported it to law enforcement immediately.”
Bedwell, 38, was booked into the Duval County jail last week and held on a $500,000 bond.
“The possibility exists that there may be people with information about additional crimes,” JSO said in a statement about the arrest. The Sheriff’s Office said Bedwell was “employed as a pastor at multiple area churches.”
It asked anyone with additional information related to the case to contact the Sheriff’s Office or First Coast Crime Stoppers.
Duval County jail records show Bedwell is facing one count of unlawful sexual activity, one count of lewd and lascivious molestation of a minor between the age of 12 and 16, one count of lewd and lascivious sexual battery on a minor between the age of 12 and 16, and one count of transmitting harmful material to a child.
Bedwell’s attorney told News4Jax he does not comment on his clients’ cases.
“Right now, our primary focus is to pray for any person who has been harmed and support them in any way they need,” Hogan wrote. “Please pray with us as we are once again reminded that we live in a dark world that needs help and hope that only God can bring.”