A youth pastor at the New Banklick Baptist Church in Walton is facing sexual abuse charges, church officials confirm.
Joseph Niemeyer, 53, is facing three felony counts of Sexual Abuse, Rape and Sodomy. He is accused of sexually abusing a 7-year-old girl over a three-year period, court documents show.
"Mr. Niemeyer actually came to the Independence Police Department and spoke to detectives and basically self-reported," Kenton County Prosecutor Rob Sanders said.
Court documents show the alleged abuse occurred at Niemeyer's home in Independence.
"Mr. Niemeyer volunteered at Twenhofel Middle School for the past three years,” said Jess Dykes who is a spokesperson for the Kenton County School District.
Dykes said Niemeyer helped as a volunteer with a group known as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The group he worked with is a very small group of sixth, seventh and eighth graders who meet once a week before school, according to Dykes.
"He did help. He did help lead prayers and read Bible scriptures,” Dykes told FOX19 NOW. “He was never alone with any of the students that he was volunteering with.”
Dykes told FOX19 now that all volunteers are required to have a background check each year they volunteer, including Niemeyer. She says all of his background check reports came back clean.
FOX19 NOW asked Dykes, "Does the district have any reason to believe that there was anything that went on between Mr. Niemeyer and any of these children?"
"Not at this time. But, we are cooperating with police in any way, shape that we need to,” she said.
School officials say, at this time, Niemeyer is not allowed to volunteer in the district. The student he was working with have all been notified of what is going on, Dykes said Thursday night.
Niemeyer and his wife worked as youth pastors at the church, according to Tim Cochran, the pastor at New Banklick.
"I'm very sorry to hear what has happened in his home and we're just praying for the family, praying this all goes well," Cochran said. "This is a pretty big deal. It's like a kick in the gut. He was my friend. I'm shocked really. Never in a million yeas would I have guessed anything like this."
Independence police say they are looking into the possibility of more victims. Sanders said to expect a large investigation due to Niemeyer's role with the church.
"That's why this case has become such a large scale investigation because police officers have to look into a suspect that had much more of an opportunity than your average child molester," Sanders told FOX19 NOW.
Niemeyer was arrested by Independence Police and booked into the Kenton Co. jail on Monday, according to the jail's website. In convicted, Niemeyer could face at least 20 years in prison.