A former Hays Hills Baptist Church deacon is expected to face charges of indecency with a child by contact after authorities accused him of abusing two girls, who are now adults, in the past.
During the course of a joint investigation conducted by Austin Police and the Hays County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), authorities believe “multiple” girls, also now all adults, had also been sexually abused by Charles Sweet, 85, of Austin, over the course of several years.
Sweet has not yet been arrested, according to a KXAN-TV report. Sweet had been a deacon at Hays Hills Baptist Church in the Buda area until he was removed and banned from the church following a 2012 sexual abuse investigation conducted by Austin Police, according to KXAN.
Eric Guevara, a detective with the Austin Police Child Abuse Unit, said the Hays County Sheriff’s Office in January received report from an adult woman who accused Sweet of sexually abusing her when she was younger, Guevara said. The alleged abuse took place in Hays County and in the Austin area.
Guevara, who reopened the 2012 investigation and joined the HCSO in its inquiry, discovered “multiple” girls, who are now adults, were victims of abuse by Sweet. Several women were identified as survivors during the course of their investigation, Guevara said.
The alleged incidents occurred from the early 1990’s and into the 2000’s. Guevara said Sweet’s “target age” was prepubescent children ranging from 6 to 12-years old. All victims in the case are female.
During that time period, Sweet was affiliated with Hays Hills and also conducted ministry work outside of the church at a location in Hays County.
That ministry work involved bible study, tutoring and general care for young children.
In a message to parishioners, Aaron Kahler, current Hays Hills pastor, said church leadership was informed in 2012 that Sweet had sexually abused a member of his family in the past.
When church leadership became aware of the abuse, Kahler said church leaders reported the abuse to authorities, which kick started an investigation.
“We cooperated completely with their investigation and followed their counsel concerning how to notify the congregation,” Kahler said.
On Sept. 9, 2012, church leaders informed their congregation that due to “grievous sin,” they removed Sweet from membership from the church and banned him from the facility. No arrest was made at that time.
In his message, Kahler said Sweet is expected to be charged with sexually abusing six girls, who are now all young women. Guevara said “there could be more” than six victims, but could not comment on an exact number.
Kahler said church leaders are not aware of any instances of sexual abuse that occurred at the church campus in Buda.
“Hays Hills Baptist Church will not tolerate abuse of any kind and ensuring the health and safety of our children and students is of paramount importance. At Hays Hills, all allegations of sexual abuse are reported to appropriate law enforcement and child protection authorities,” Kahler said.
Kahler said the church is committed to providing counseling and spiritual care to any impacted by past abuse. The church is also offering to provide profeesional counseling to the girls, who are now women, abused by “this man who was once in our midst,” Kahler said.
“As well, we are partnering with MinistrySafe, national experts in child sexual abuse issues, to provide training to staff members and volunteers serving minors at Hays Hills,” Kahler said.
Authorities are now asking those who might have been abused by Sweet to come forward.
“I just want to let survivors know that coming forward doesn’t mean it’s all about the criminal investigation, but it also has to do with recovery process. That’s the beginning stages of that,” Guevara said.
Anyone who might have information related to this case should contact Austin Police at 512.974.6880 or the Hays County Sheriff’s Office at 512.393.7896.