Florida youth pastor accused of attempted sex with minor

LAKELAND, Fla. — A Florida youth pastor is accused of trying to have sex with a 17-year-old girl in his youth group, authorities said Wednesday.

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Andrew Pierce Weaver, 29, of Lakeland, was arrested Tuesday on charges of attempted unlawful sex with a minor and interference with child custody, according to Polk County Sheriff’s Office online booking records.

Weaver, a youth pastor at Highlands Church of Christ in Lakeland, had an inappropriate, informal relationship with the teen for several months, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a news conference. Weaver was reported by church officials, the sheriff said.

The victim told investigators that Weaver frequently looked at nude personal photographs the teen stored on her cellphone, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“Instead of him being the adult in the room, he creates a relationship with a 17-year-old child,” Judd told reporters. “Did I tell you that he’s 29, and married, and a youth pastor?”

At one point, Weaver met the victim at the church in late December and took her to a motel in nearby Mulberry, where he had rented a room, WTVT reported. Before any sexual contact was initiated, a maid knocked on the motel door.

“That maid (who) went to the door, she was an angel that day because it freaked him out and the rest of that ‘inappropriate counseling session’ didn’t take place,” Judd told reporters.

Weaver admitted to investigators that he drove the girl to the motel room, and Best Western records verify the timeline, according to a sheriff’s office news release. Weaver also told sheriff’s officials that he believed he’d “crossed a line” with the girl, the release states.

In a statement, officials with the Highlands Church of Christ said Weaver had been fired.

“Last week we became aware of allegations of our student minister being involved in criminal conduct and we reported this to the Florida Department of Children and Family and to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office,” the statement said. “His employment has been terminated and we are cooperating with the investigation being conducted by the sheriff’s office. We are devastated by what has occurred and we are praying for healing for our church and for those involved.”

Judd said the church did the right thing.

“Let me share a little counseling with Andrew here: Jesus don’t like that,” Judd told reporters. “I’d even go so far to say he’s pissed.”