NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Detectives with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office are asking potential additional victims of a teacher arrested for sexually battering a teen in 2009 to come forward.
- Sheriff's Office seeking other possible victims in sexual battery case
- Jeremiah Smith, 38, accused of sexual battery of 17-year-old boy
- Smith was a teacher at Genesis Preparatory School
“It takes a lot of bravery to come forward to say that you were abused of a sexual crime. However, if that’s something that you’re thinking about doing, we want to help you with that,” said Det. Michael Rosa of the sheriff’s office Major Crimes Unit.
Deputies arrested Jeremiah Smith, 38, of Port Richey, for alleged sexual battery of a 17-year-old boy. Rosa said the reported victim came forward earlier this month and told investigators the incidents happened while Smith was a youth minister at the boy’s church, First United Methodist Church of Hudson. The alleged abuse took place in Smith’s home at the time.
According to an arrest report, a controlled call took place between Smith and the alleged victim. The document states Smith repeatedly apologized and said he “made a series of horrible decisions.”
When interviewed by a detective, Smith reportedly acknowledged parts of the account but said the incident happened when the boy was 18-years-old.
The news of Smith’s arrest came as a blow to the Genesis Preparatory School community. According to the school’s website, Smith taught middle school language arts and high school English at the private school.
Principal Antonia Hapsis-Ladas said he substitute taught for several months last school year, then began his full-time position in August.
“We’re all numb of the whole situation. The well-being and security of our students is key here,” said Hapsis-Ladas.
Hapsis-Ladas said all teachers have to pass background checks and Smith’s revealed nothing concerning. A letter explaining the situation was sent to parents Tuesday afternoon, and an assembly for students, faculty, and any parent who wants to attend is planned for Wednesday.
One mother whose 14-year-old son who was in Smith’s English class said she was shocked by the news.
“For the most part, he was always a good teacher and very respectful,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. “Extremely surprised. Very disappointed right now.”
Rosa said at this time, there’s no evidence pointing to additional victims. Smith’s biography on the Genesis web site notes he was involved and teaching and coaching middle and high school students for 20 years.
“He has been around children and worked in that field for so many years. Not every person who commits this type of crime commits this crime multiple times. However, we’ve had that before,” said Rosa.
In addition to Genesis Prep and First United Methodist Church of Hudson, detectives said Smith also worked at Journey Church in New Port Richey.
Hapsis-Ladas said Smith is no longer employed at Genesis.
First United Methodist Church of Hudson had no comment Tuesday.