WILMINGTON, N.C. — A Florida woman who found nude photos of an adult male on her son's cellphone was traced the sender's telephone number to a New Hanover County youth pastor, according to court records.
Tyler Sinkus Smither, 30, the youth pastor at Harbor United Methodist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, is now facing two counts of indecent liberties with a child.
According to an affidavit, the Florida boy’s mother had a parental control option on her 11-year-old son's cellphone.
She was notified by Verizon that someone at an unknown number was contacting her child. When she searched the number on Facebook, she found it linked to Smither.
He was arrested on Dec. 2, the affidavit said.
In a sermon two days later, Harbor UMC pastor Russ Nanney addressed the situation, referring to Smither but never mentioning him by name.
"I hope that, as my former preaching professor used to say, that we will one day grant our former youth minister that long look of mercy," he said. "I'm not suggesting this is the easy thing to do, nor am I suggesting that we can do this today. But I hope one day, as a church, we can do that."
Calling Smither intelligent and gifted, Nanney lamented the charges he was facing.
"(He is) a man who was loved, a man who we trusted, a man with whom we share memories and laughter with, but a man who," he said, taking a long pause, "fell."
Nanney said it is hard to know how to react, because numbness was the only thing he was able to feel for the last few days.
"I have yet to process this," he said. "I have processed it in my head, but not in my heart."
Jail records show that Smither was released on a $100,000 bond after his arrest.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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