• Lake County deacon arrested on charges he molested young girl


    LEESBURG, Fla. - A deacon at First Baptist Church in Leesburg is accused of sexual battery on a girl under 10-years-old.

    Thomas Halsey, 65, turned himself in to authorities Friday afternoon after investigators obtained his arrest warrant.

    The victim’s mother reported that Halsey had been sexually abusing her daughter over a course of two years, but the victim told her mother about the alleged abuse this month.

    In the arrest affidavit, the victim said she performed a sex act on Halsey on March 21 inside a large treehouse in Halsey’s backyard.

    The treehouse is multi-level and contains bunk beds on the top level.

    The victim also told detectives Halsey wanted her to keep it a secret, and not tell her mother or Halsey’s wife.

    The graphic arrest report describes how the young girl drew pictures for investigators.

    Halsey tried to shift the blame on his victim, according to reports, and told detectives that the victim touched him inappropriately while he was asleep on a bed inside the treehouse, and that the girl said she’d run away if he told anyone.

    He also reportedly said the victim touched him inappropriately on other occasions as well.

    “For obvious reasons that just didn’t jive with what we found,” said Sgt. James Vachon with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

    After the victim reported the incident, deputies obtained a search warrant for the treehouse.

    “We obtained an unusual search warrant for a treehouse,” Vachon said.

    Channel 9’s Kristyn Caddell went to the home Halsey shares with his wife, Tamra Halsey, but no one answered the door.

    Deputies said Tamra Halsey doesn’t appear to have known about the alleged abuse and is cooperating with the investigation.

    Halsey had been a member of the church for 13 years.

    He passes a background check to become a deacon.

    Church officials said he’s been removed from his position and never worked with children.

    Investigators are looking into the possibility that there could be more victims.

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