Police sirens

The former youth pastor of a Bedford County church faces more than 100 charges, including 85 felony charges, related to his alleged inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old girl.

Wesley Ryan Blackburn, 35, of New Paris, who until last week served as a youth pastor and Sunday School teacher at Faith Brethren Bible Church in New Paris, is charged with 84 felony counts of statutory sexual assault, 84 misdemeanor counts of indecent assault and one felony count of corruption of minors.

Blackburn's wife told church pastor James Espenshade last Thursday morning that Blackburn had developed a relationship with a 15-year-old member of his youth group and that the girl was pregnant, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Espenshade and the church deacons then confronted Blackburn at the church, where he refused to speak to them, Espenshade told police. At that point, they fired Blackburn from his position as youth pastor, and Espenshade contacted police, according to the affidavit.

A Pennsylvania state trooper spoke to Blackburn in his office at the church Thursday afternoon. According to the trooper, when he arrived, Blackburn appeared to be packing up his belongings, the affidavit said.

Blackburn told the trooper that he had met the girl in 2009, when he first came to Faith Brethren Bible Church, and that they grew closer after she joined his youth group in 2014, according to the affidavit. Blackburn said he and the girl developed a physical relationship in March, the affidavit said.

When the trooper informed Blackburn that the girl was pregnant, Blackburn acknowledged that he was the child's father, according to the affidavit. The trooper then took Blackburn into custody.

After interviewing Blackburn's wife, police learned that on Wednesday night, Blackburn had revealed his relationship with the girl to his wife, informed his wife that he did not love her and asked for a divorce, according to the affidavit.

His wife told police that she had refused to sign divorce papers, according to the affidavit.

The next morning, she contacted Espenshade and told him of Blackburn's alleged relationship, the affidavit said.

Blackburn was arraigned Thursday night by District Judge Tonya Osman. He remains in Bedford County Jail, unable to post $200,000 bail, according to online court records.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 19 before Osman, according to online court records.

Online court records do not list an attorney for Blackburn.

Mark Pesto is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkPesto.

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