Crime

Rock Hill man accused of sexually abusing teen boy

A Rock Hill man is accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy investigators say he mentored at a Charlotte church.

Jacob Allen Smith, 24, was arrested Thursday afternoon and charged with three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, according to jail records. A municipal judge on Friday denied bond for Smith.

Smith met the boy at Steele Creek Church of Charlotte, according to Capt. Mark Bollinger, a Rock Hill Police spokesman. He is accused of sexually abusing the teen on three occasions, one of which was in August 2015.

The abuse was first reported to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, which contacted Rock Hill authorities, according to an incident report. Bollinger said the abuse happened at Smith’s home in Rock Hill.

It’s not clear if Smith’s position at the church was paid or volunteer.

“He was in a mentor position,” Detective Kris Quate said during the bond hearing. “He was the victim’s mentor while in this mentor position.”

The victim was not in court Friday; however, his mother, shaking and holding back tears, pleaded to Judge Kesha Simpkins to deny bond, calling Smith a “predator.”

“His entire life is built around contact with juveniles,” the victim’s mother said. “He waited until he had built trust with myself and his victims before he precipitated this action. He could be in the process of grooming other victims, and releasing him would give him the opportunity to continue that grooming.

“No amount of bond can or will ensure the safety of my son or any other kids,” she continued, “and he is a threat to public safety.”

Rev. Larry Lacivita, executive pastor at Steele Creek Church of Charlotte, said they were made aware of Smith’s arrest late Friday afternoon.

“He did not mentor anyone here. He hasn’t mentored anyone here at all,” Lacivita said, adding that Smith volunteers in a security capacity on Sundays. Each child in the church’s child care center, and their parent receives a matching tag. Lacivita said Smith’s job is to stand at the bottom of the stairwell leading to the child care area and check tags to verify each parent is taking the correct child after services.

Lacivita said Smith was screened in August 2012, and church officials found “no red flags, whatsoever.”

“It’s a very unfortunate thing that has occurred,” he said.

Smith has no prior criminal record, according to the State Law Enforcement Division. He faces up to 20 years in prison on each charge.

The victim’s mother said in court Friday that Smith volunteers at Hargett Park in Rock Hill and a Charlotte athletic association.

Smith served as a volunteer coach for the City of Rock Hill’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism youth sports baseball program during the spring 2015 season, according to Laurie Helms, a city spokeswoman. He passed the city’s mandatory background check before his service.

Last fall, Smith coached for “a separate organization’s fall baseball league,” which rented fields at Hargett Park, Helms said, adding that this group is not part of the city’s program and the city does not coordinate its coaches.

“Until further investigation, he will not be allowed to serve as a volunteer for any City of Rock Hill PRT program,” Helms said.

Smith, appearing on closed circuit TV on Friday, shook his head as the victim’s mother spoke.

“I’m gonna plead not guilty to two of them (charges), but one of them I will be,” he started to say before Simpkins reminded him Friday’s appearance was only a bond hearing, and that he need not go into details of the case.

Teddy Kulmala: 803-329-4082, @teddy_kulmala

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