Delaware Pastor Charged with Soliciting Nude Pictures of Runaway Child
Delaware State prosecutors are seeking information about a pastor in Laurel charged with soliciting child porn after he paid a runaway child for nude pictures.
Local police began investigating Leonard Eley, 62, the pastor of Storm Shelter Ministries, after the victim, a teenage girl, approached authorities.
Detectives said they discovered inappropriate text messages between Eley and the minor last summer. The discovery followed a tip to the Division of Family Services, and the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force alleged a child was possibly “being sexually trafficked.”
Prosecutors indicted Eley on one count of Sexual Solicitation of a Minor, two counts of Possession of Child Pornography, and one count of Theft by False Pretenses.
In messages dated June 30, Eley offered to pay the victim in exchange for nude pictures. Court documents said the Delaware pastor paid the child for nude photos of herself with money stolen from the church.
Investigators said Eley used $200 of the congregation’s funds to send the victim money through CashApp and pay her phone bill. The teenage girl once attended Storm Shelter Ministries.
In an interview with detectives, the victim said she kept in contact with the pastor because he paid her cell phone bill while she was a runaway.
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When detectives confronted him, police said Eley confessed to asking and paying for the pictures. He told police he had PTSD from a traumatic brain injury he encountered in the military. He cited his PTSD as the reason he requested the pictures. Police said they captured Eley’s confession on a body cam.
Detectives said Eley instructed the victim several times to delete the conversations between them and made other lewd statements to her.
Storm Shelter Ministries was incorporated in September 2005, but its listed status is “unknown,” according to Bizapedia. The church’s Facebook page is currently unavailable.
The child is the only victim mentioned in Eley’s arrest affidavit and indictment, but based on interviews with witnesses, authorities believe there are more.
The Delaware DOJ continues seeking more information from the public and is asking for help identifying more victims.
Authorities released Eley from custody on a $30,000 secured bond. In November, a Sussex County grand jury indicted Eley on all four charges.
Eley remains out on bond as he awaits his court date. He has not entered a plea yet.
His arraignment will be in early January.