The family of a teenage girl who was sexually assaulted by a youth director at Gulf Breeze Methodist Church is suing the church, its leadership and the youth pastor.
Zarzaur Law P.A. announced the lawsuit Monday against not only the church but the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, Pastor Dan Morris, Executive Pastor Kenneth York and Youth Pastor Ryan Walsh.
Walsh, 29, was found guilty of lewd and lascivious behavior of a 13-year-old, distributing obscene material to a minor and obscene communication to seduce or solicit a child. He was sentenced Oct. 7 to more than 19 years in prison with 971 days of credit, according to court records.
"The suit alleges that Zarzaur Law's minor client was sent explicit messages on church devices and ultimately sexually assaulted by its Youth Pastor Ryan Walsh," a press release announcing the lawsuit stated.
According to the release, the lawsuit alleges that the church and conference officials "violated its own policies and procedures" when they "negligently hired, trained and supervised" Walsh.
The Gulf Breeze Police Department began an investigation in February 2020 into Walsh after the church's senior pastor and executive pastor reported inappropriate contact between a minor and Walsh.
The pastors were contacted a day earlier on Feb. 5, 2020, by the teenager's parents, who discovered text threads that were explicit and sexual in nature. The girl attended youth programs at the church.
The church immediately put Walsh on administrative leave and had him leave the church property.
"The suit alleges that these actions allowed the Youth Pastor to have access to youth in the church community and it permitted him to use all forms of social media ... to communicate with minor children," the release notes. "The suit describes the disgusting conduct of the youth pastor, including his explicit text messages between himself and the 13-year-old victim."
The lawsuit was filed by firm's senior partner, Joe Zarzaur.
Benjamin Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8578
This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Gulf Breeze Methodist Church sued after youth pastor sexual assault