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Former Pennsylvania Youth Pastor Charged with Multiple Sex Crimes Against Minors

A former youth pastor in Pennsylvania is charged with multiple counts of sex crimes against minors, including child pornography and sexual assault. 

Mark Willian Heotzler, 29, served as a youth pastor at Grace Chapel Community Church in Hermitage, about an hour north of Pittsburgh, from 2014 until 2019, when he left for a job at a church in south central Pennsylvania. 

Pennsylvania state police last week charged Heotzler with digitally photographing children performing sex acts, child pornography, criminal solicitation to digitally photograph children performing sex acts, dissemination of images showing sex acts with minors, unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of minors, unlawful contact with a minor, sexual assault by a volunteer or employee of a non-profit, corruption of minors by an adult 18 or older and indecent assault of a person younger than 16. 

At least 10 children were involved, The Herald, a publication that covers the Shenango Valley and Mercer County areas, reported. The crimes are believed to have occurred at Heotzler’s home. 

Heotzler previously pled guilty March 4 to unlawful obscene contact with a minor and was sentenced in May to three to 23 months in Franklin County Jail, where he is currently being held.

The criminal complaint said Heotzler’s actions included sending nude photos of himself by text and over Snapchat and asking a 15-year-old boy to strip naked and ride on his back.

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Heotzler admitted to some of the acts and attributed his behavior to his “sexual desire,” local CBS TV affiliate WKBN reported.

State police initially filed the charges in Mercer County, but the case was transferred to Pine Township after a Mercer judge who is an elder at Grace Chapel recused himself from the case. 

In a statement to The Herald, Grace Chapel Community Church Lead Pastor Aaron Lego confirmed Heotzler’s tenure there and said Grace Chapel was cooperating fully with the criminal investigation. Lego said the church “remains deeply concerned for all those affected and remains committed to working through this difficult time, confident that God’s grace will sustain us.”

Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.