Thursday, June 16, 2011

Youth Pastor from Blaine arrested for sexually assaulting teen girl

HAM LAKE — A 47-year-old church youth pastor was arrested June 14 on suspicions of an ongoing sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl, according to a criminal complaint.

Damian Blake Burkhalter, of Blaine, was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Maximum penalties under first-degree charges carry a 30-year sentence if convicted.

According to a criminal complaint:

Burkhalter was employed as youth director at Glen Cary Lutheran Church in Ham Lake when he allegedly tried to have sex with the victim from June to November, 2010. The victim described oral sex incidents, most of which happened at the church, in Burkhalter's office or in the youth room in the church's basement. Other sexual incidents happened at Burkhalter's Blaine home.

The girl was hired as Burkhalter's temporary secretary over the summer, working about two shifts a week. She said there was sexual contact with Burkhalter on each shift. Burkhalter allegedly tried to adopt the victim, a detail supported by testimony of the victim's aunt, who the girl now lives with in Willmar.

The girl, who said she thought of Burkhalter as a “father figure” while working for him, came up with religious reasons for him to stop his advances such as “saving herself for marriage.” The girl said Burkhalter would tell her that “Joseph was in his forties and Mary was much younger.”

According to the complaint, authorities learned of the allegations through accounts made by the girl to her therapist.

Burkhalter's bail was set at $100,000 or $50,000 with the condition that he have no unsupervised contact with juveniles. He is being held at Anoka County Jail.

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