OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - An Osceola County church volunteer faced a judge Wednesday after being arrested on charges of trying to lure an 11-year-old girl for sex.
Investigators said Jonathan Kowalski, 25, sent inappropriate text messages to the girl, whose family are members of the Living Waters Church in Kissimmee, where he volunteered.
His bond was set at $250,000.
The church's pastor, Terry Howell, said the victim's mother came to him after discovering the texts.
"Oh, I'm very disappointed, very appalled by it. I found it very hard to believe," said Howell. "I was like, 'Alright, we have to do something about it,' which was why I instantly called police."
"Initially, he wasn't cooperating with the investigation, but
after he did start talking with detectives, he indicated that she told him she was 13 or 14," said Twis Lizasuain of the Osceola County Sheriff's Office.
However, according to reports, he knew the girl was younger, since he only worked with children in kindergarten through
Kowalski, a father himself, told the girl he was 16.
Undercover detectives set up a sting on Tuesday that took Kowalski down.
"We took the daughter's cellphone into our possession and earlier today began texting the suspect as if they were the daughter," Lizasuain said.
Kowalski was arrested while allegedly on his way to meet the girl. Police said he was carrying condoms at the time of his arrest.
The church said a background check prior to his hiring was clean.
"He was one of our low-level volunteers. He wasn't a teacher, wasn't one-on-one with any of the children. He was always supervised. He was always with someone," said Howell.
Investigators are looking into the possibility that Kowalski was volunteering with other organizations in the community where he would have access to children.
Kowalski remains in the Osceola County Jail.