Pasco County

Former youth pastor arrested for sexual battery worked around kids for years

LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) - Kids have been a common factor in Jeremiah Smith's life.

He worked as a youth pastor from 2006 to 2011. He taught grades 6 to 12 at Genesis Preparatory School in New Port Richey.  And, News Channel 8 learned he coached cheering at a gym in Largo.

The allegation that he sexually battered a boy in 2009 shocked parents at Florida Top Dog All Stars Cheer Gym.

"It bothers me," said a parent who didn't want to give her name.

Pasco County Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll said Smith works at the gym, but had no other immediate details. The owner of the gym called News Channel 8 and has confirmed Smith no longer works at the gym. 

Smith was arrested Monday after a man came forward and said Smith sexually battered him inside Smith's home back in 2009.

At the time, the boy was 17.

Investigators said Smith admitted to the crime when they had the victim call him. They listened in, they said.

Doll said Wednesday that the detective on the case got calls about concerns after news of his arrest.  The detective is now going through those potential leads.

"I would not have imagined it. He is a family man with three children of his own, three young boys," said Antonia Hapsis-Ladas, principal at the private school.

The director of communications for the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church sent the following statement to News Channel 8:

A former director of youth and student ministries at First UMC Hudson has been arrested for sexually battering a minor nearly 10 years ago. The incidents allegedly occurred in the youth director’s private home.  Jeremiah Smith was employed as First Hudson’s director of youth and student ministries from May 2006 to May 2011, and he resigned. He has no current connection or affiliation with First UMC Hudson, and we just recently became aware of the allegations.  We will cooperate with the authorities as requested, and we will continue to follow our child/youth protection protocols to ensure that our children remain in a safe environment.  We pray that healing and love for all involved will bring the grace and power of God into this situation, and that we as the family of God may continue to fulfill His purpose for us.


More Stories

Don't Miss

Latest News - Local

Video Center