Martinsville Youth Minister Accused of Sex with Underage Girl

Tony Perkins

A Martinsville youth minister is in trouble with the law. Police say 25-year-old Ryan Wallingford had sex with one of the teenage girls he was supposed to be counseling.

"I have three kids of my own and I would like to think that if I take them to a youth group they will be safe there, and that they're taken good care of," said Detective Dan Downing of the Morgan County Sheriff's Department.

Wallingford worked counseling high school aged boys and girls at Liberty Christian Church. According to investigators, he tried to start a sexual relationship with one of his young charges, a 16-year-old girl, outside of the church. Police say the girl complained to church leaders about Wallingford's text messages. The church contacted child protective services, which relayed the story to investigators.

Police searched the computer in Wallingford's church office. Investigators say they found several hundred pornographic pictures on the hard drive. Police say they also found another set of photographs, photos of a teenage girl, also from Wallingford's church group.

She told investigators Wallingford asked her to send topless pictures of herself on her digital camera. When police interviewed the second 16-year-old, she told them Wallingford had sex with her, at his home and at the church itself.

"It's supposed to be your safe haven, and in this instance, these young ladies were not handled in that manner," Detective Downing said.

Police arrested Wallingford and prosecutors charged him with two counts of child solicitation and two counts of child seduction. Church leaders have dismissed Wallingford from the job he held there for two years.

Officials at the Liberty Christian Church released the following statement: "The leadership of the Liberty Christian Church was incredibly saddened by the events in the past year. As soon as we were apprised of Ryan Wallingford's activities, we took immediate and appropriate action. Child protective services of Morgan County was quickly informed of the situation. Because of the continuing criminal investigation, we cannot comment any further on the circumstances. However, we continue to pray for every individual and for family members that have been affected."

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