Church youth leader arrested for soliciting sex from minor
October 29 2003 12:00 AM ET
Hewart Lee Bennett, 46, of West Palm Beach, Fla., told deputies he was on a mission of spreading the word of Jesus to young people, which he would do after gaining their trust by talking to them about sex in online chat rooms. But the deputies didn't buy his story and quickly arrested him. Bennett, a former church youth leader, was apparently trying to meet up with a 15-year-old boy he had met online when someone called 911 at around 5 p.m. on October 20 to report a suspicious person in a white Buick parked near a house in North Lauderdale, The Miami Herald reports. A deputy didn't see the car at the house but spotted it nearby. As he walked up to the car, a boy walked away. Bennett, who was driving the Buick, said he was an assistant youth minister at First Seventh-day Adventist Church in West Palm Beach and had come to the area to talk to children about being gay and to preach to them, according to the Broward County Sheriff's Office. The teen told deputies that Bennett had stopped him, asked how to get to his house, and told him to get in the car. The 15-year-old boy said he gave the wrong address and ran home because he was afraid. He said he had met Bennett in a gay chat room, where Bennett posed as a young man and said he wanted to come over and have sex, according to the sheriff's office. Bennett admitted to talking about sex with young people online but said he did it only to gain their trust. ''Obviously, our investigators don't believe his intentions were as pure as he says they are,'' sheriff's office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright told the Herald. ''And regardless of his intentions, his approach was way off base and even criminal.'' Richard Moseley, pastor of First Seventh-day Adventist Church, said he is shocked. ''Oh, no. That's not the way to do it,'' Moseley told the Herald. ''Believe me, I believe in ministering to kids, but that's not the way do it.'' Moseley said Bennett was a youth leader once but more recently had been elected community services leader. In that capacity, he was in charge of delivering food, medicine, and clothes to poor and elderly people. The pastor said he had never received any complaints that Bennett had acted inappropriately. Bennett was arrested on a charge of using a computer service to solicit or try to solicit a child for sex. He was released from the Broward County Jail on Wednesday after posting a $1,000 bond and could not be reached for comment.