Former youth pastor arrested

Dustin Werneburg, 28, former youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Coalgate, Okla., faces eight counts of molestation of a girl younger than 16.

By Bob Allen

A Southern Baptist pastor in Oklahoma second-guessed himself after the arrest of his former youth pastor on eight counts of sexual abuse of a minor.

Jeff Self, pastor of First Baptist Church in Coalgate, Okla., told CBS affiliate KXII television, which broadcasts in a two-state area covering North Texas and Southeastern Oklahoma, that church leaders dismissed 28-year-old Dustin Werneburg in August after the third allegation of sexual misconduct against the youth pastor in three years.

dustin-werneburgPolice arrested Werneburg Nov. 14 at Blanchard Middle School in Blanchard, Okla., where he was serving as a teacher’s aide, the station reported. He was jailed in Coal County on three counts of second-degree rape, three counts of forcible sodomy, a charge of lewd or indecent proposals to a child and lewd molestation, all involving a girl under the age of 16.

Police said the girl’s parents found inappropriate text messages and photos exchanged between her and Werneburg. Investigators said the two began texting in November of 2011 and exchanged at least 1,000 messages.

Self said Werneburg served at the church three years, and during that time was previously accused of sexual misconduct twice. Both were “he said/she said” accounts, and Self said he believed his youth pastor. It wasn’t until a third time that Werneburg was accused of having inappropriate contact with a girl that church leaders met and asked for his resignation.

The pastor said Werneburg passed a criminal background check and appeared to be a good family man. In a video of a sermon at a youth camp uploaded last year, Werneburg said he had been married six years and had three children under the age of five.

"You look back and you go: ‘Were there signs I should have seen? Did I miss something?’” Self said. “I had the guy in my home, and his family. It puts all kinds of questions in your mind that really makes it harder to trust the next person."

Self says the church isn’t thinking about a new youth minister right now. "We're just dealing with this situation and trying to make sure our students are able to get through this and not to lose their faith in God through this," Self said.

Self said he talked to church members about Werneburg's charges Sunday morning. Werneburg's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 6.