BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — A former Northwest Arkansas youth pastor is now behind bars.
Police arrested Keenan Hord on Thursday. He used to be a youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Bentonville. Now he’s facing charges of second-degree sexual assault, possessing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child and sexual indecency with a minor.
“I think what the people need to realize is that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing in every area of life,” said Benton County Prosecutor, Nathan Smith.
Smith said as soon as the church found out about the allegations, it took all the correct steps in reporting what it had learned to authorities. This situation hits home for Smith.
“I was pleased in this case certainly as prosecuting attorney, but also as a member of the church, that it was reported to law enforcement and we can deal with it,” he said. “That was the right thing to do.”
KNWA/FOX24 received a probable cause affidavit that’s very redacted to protect the identity of the children involved. It says police seized multiple electronic devices and “During the forensic examination of Hord’s cell phone, detectives recovered conversations…”
“We can be doing this job for 16 years and still be surprised, but also not surprised,” said Natalie Tibbs, Executive Director of the Child Advocacy Center in Benton County.
She said they are called immediately when child maltreatment allegations are made. Their job is to conduct forensic interviews with kids who have suffered abuse in a way that puts the child’s needs and safety first.
“A church is not exempt from experiencing situations like this because that’s where children are,” she said. “People who want to harm children will go where children are.”
She said it’s important for parents to have conversations with their kids about what abuse looks like and to believe their kids when they come forward.
“We must believe children when they say this because by brushing that away, we could be risking so much greater harm,” she said.
First Baptist Church sent KNWA/FOX24 the following statement:
“We have been devastated to learn that a former employee of our church has been credibly accused of abusing adolescents during his tenure at our church. While these accusations did not come to light until after his employment ended, when we learned of them we immediately contacted our local authorities, made a report to the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline, and continue to fully support the ongoing law enforcement investigation. We are ministering to the survivors and their families who demonstrated incredible courage in coming forward. We are praying for God’s perfect peace for those who have been harmed and God’s justice for the abuse of His people.”First Baptist Church
Click here to see resources on the Child Advocacy Center about how to have conversations with your child about abuse.