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Former South Carolina youth pastor charged with criminal sexual conduct of minor

Michael Paul Keech

Editor’s Note: In support of the sixth strategic action of Vision 2025 adopted by messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting, Baptist Press will continue to report every instance of sexual abuse related to Southern Baptist churches or leaders of which we are made aware.

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP) – A former youth pastor is accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy for more than two years.

The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department announced Oct. 21 the arrest of Michael Paul Keech, 41, “charged with three second-degree counts and one third-degree count of criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 16,” according to a press release.

The release states that the alleged victim recounted sexual encounters with Creech stretching from July 2019 to February 2022.

“Our investigation started after a family member of the alleged victim reported signs of the abuse to us,” Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon is quoted. “Our work on the case included gathering evidence from the alleged victim’s home and interviewing him.”

According to Keech’s Facebook page, he began working at Saluda River Baptist Church in West Columbia, S.C., in April 2019.

Reached by the Chronicle, John Yorio, the church’s pastor, confirmed that Keech was employed as a youth pastor there until he was fired in March 2021.

“I had just started two weeks beforehand,” Yorio said. “And there were some things that were in the personnel file that I found to be not conducive of the personality and character of somebody serving in ministry. So we fired him.”

Yorio said he could not comment further on what caused Keech to be fired.

“What I can say is that we, from then up until recently, have cooperated with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department,” the pastor said. “They have all the information we have.”

Arrest warrants provided to the Chronicle offer more detail on the sexual abuse Keech is accused of committing. The warrants add that the defendant admitted to receiving oral sex from the victim on multiple occasions and attempting to perform oral sex on him.

The sheriff’s department is actively seeking more information about potential additional victims, the release states, encouraging those with knowledge to use the Midlands Crimestoppers mobile app to share anonymous tips.

This portion of this article was reprinted with permission from The Lexington County (S.C.) Chronicle. Read the full article here.

If you are/have been a victim of sexual abuse or suspect sexual abuse by a pastor, staff member or member of a Southern Baptist church or entity, please reach out for help at 202-864-5578 or [email protected]. All calls are confidential.

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  • Jordan Lawrence/Lexington Chronicle