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Church volunteer suspected of soliciting minor, document says

By BY JESSICA PRIEST - JPRIEST@VICAD.COM
May 20, 2014 at 12:20 a.m.

Stephen Paul Crofutt

A 35-year-old Victoria man arrested by police Monday night in front of Gold's Gym was planning a life with a 16-year-old.

Stephen Paul Crofutt, arrested on suspicion of online solicitation of a minor, went to the mall with the girl on Mother's Day and picked out a 13/8-carats, 14-karat white gold engagement ring, according to a complaint filed by Detective Cody Breunig of the Victoria Police Department's Cyber Crimes Unit.

Breunig wrote that the girl's mother contacted him Monday morning about Crofutt, whom the family had met at Parkway Church more than a month ago.

Crofutt was a youth volunteer for Parkway Church's All Star Kids ministry, which is for elementary school children, said the Rev. Mike Hurt.

"He was removed from the ministry before he was arrested ... because of concerns we had regarding the relationship," Hurt said Tuesday.

He declined to comment about how the church was alerted to the relationship but said, "We've worked in complete cooperation with the police and the family. ... I feel like it's a sad situation."

To be a volunteer, Hurt said, one must pass a criminal background check.

"Our policy is clear, and our practice is consistent that kids are never one-on-one with a volunteer. It's always a group setting, typically with two volunteers and open doors," Hurt added.

Crofutt was sending sexually explicit text messages to the girl, and the girl admitted to Breunig they had made out at least four times, according to the complaint.

Crofutt also asked the girl whether she wanted to have his baby.

"I began texting Stephen while talking to the juvenile. He immediately sent me a picture of automated 'icon-baby,' which the juvenile explained is his way of asking if she wanted to have one," Detective Breunig wrote in the complaint, adding mall surveillance video corroborated the girl's story about picking out the ring.

Breunig, sending text messages from the girl's phone, arranged to meet Crofutt at 6 p.m. at Gold's Gym, 5201 N. Navarro St.

Crofutt pulled up in his four-door, gold Mercury, sent a text message to Breunig that he had arrived and was arrested at 6:02 p.m., according to the complaint.

Marcus Crofutt, of Texarkana, said Tuesday that news of his son's arrest was "gut-wrenching."

"He's a Christian man. I'm feeling that he was lied to, that she told him that she was 18," Crofutt said. "That's the story that his whole family got that this girl was 18 or 19 and looking forward to going to college and that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. The fact that she was 16 was news to me."

Crofutt added that his son, who is a father to two children, wouldn't do this "even if he was drunk."

On Tuesday, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3, Robert Whitaker arraigned the younger Crofutt on a charge of online solicitation of a minor with intent to meet.

His bond is $50,000. If he posts bond, Crofutt is prohibited from using social media, logging into chat rooms or text messaging.

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