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Youth Pastor Labeled as a ‘Danger to Society’ Set for Release Next Month

A former youth pastor who a judge called “a danger to society” and who sexually groomed and abused 14 girls at a North Texas megachurch will be released from prison next month after serving a 33-month sentence.

Former Denton Bible Church youth pastor Robert Shiflet is serving 33 months on two counts for sexually assaulting two girls during church youth trips. A 10-month investigation confirmed 14 victims. The claims vary from accounts of sexual assault, gross misconduct, grooming behavior, and spiritual abuse.

At the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky told the court he was “flabbergasted” at the plea agreement, which bound him to a sentencing range of 27-33 months in prison.

The range was well below the sentencing guidelines of 41-51 months and far below the statutory maximum of 10 years on one count and 15 years on the other.

“You are a terrible person,” Judge Rudofsky criticized Shiflet during his announcement. “I don’t believe that you are sorry in the slightest. I don’t believe you have rehabilitated yourself.”

“I don’t think you are a good person, and I don’t think you stand a chance of becoming a good person. If it was up to me and you had been found guilty after a trial, I would have sent you away for 25 years.”

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He ordered Shiflet to spend the rest of his life under federal supervision once he was allowed out of prison.

In May, Denton Bible Church Pastor and best-selling author Tommy Nelson told his congregation last spring that Shiflet deceived him.

The same day as his address to the congregation, the Denton Bible Church Elder Board released a five-page statement detailing the investigation conducted by a third-party attorney.

The report mentioned multiple incidents where Denton Bible was made aware of Shiflet’s inappropriate behavior with girls in his middle school youth group. It listed several cases where leadership confronted Shiflet but took no further action.

The document said parents of a victim from 2005 approached the church in 2019, asking them to provide care for their daughter, who was 30. It was then that Denton Bible Church observed there were no reports to authorities on the abuse. They then reported what they knew to the police and hired third-party investigators.

“As soon as Denton Bible became aware of the federal investigation, they worked with those authorities,” the report said. It included a statement from the board acknowledging their mistakes and an apology.

“We did not protect these children from their youth pastor,” the statement says. “We did not have a victim-centered response, and cultural dynamics at Denton Bible contributed to or exacerbated these failures.”

“We weep that these young women came to a place of protection and were violated. We are sorry that a house of healing generated a source of deep pain for each of them, and that we did not protect them from a predator who disguised himself both to them and us as a spiritual mentor. We must confess to these women and their families that we not only did not protect them, but we also did not respond to them with the compassion, care, and understanding they deserved. We now realize and take responsibility for the ways we compounded their suffering.”

The report concluded with plans for how the church will handle and prevent abuse moving forward. The list included staff sexual abuse awareness training and a care program for victims.

The U.S. Department of Justice notice says Shiflet will reside in Denton. He will be required to register as a sex offender.

Jessica Eturralde

Jessica Eturralde is a military wife of 18 years and mother of three who serves as a freelance writer, TV host, and filmmaker. Bylines include Yahoo, Huffington Post, OC16TV.