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Youth pastor accused of sexual assault met Hazelwood teen at church retreat

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HAZELWOOD — A New York youth pastor charged with the sexual assault of a teenage girl in Hazelwood met the teen at a Christian retreat in Michigan before he was invited to stay with the girl's family, Hazelwood police said Tuesday.

Jesse Vargas

Jesse Vargas

Jesse Vargas, 37, of Nassau County, New York, was a youth pastor who worked at The Incredible Journey to Christianity retreat in Michigan where he met the teen, Hazelwood police Capt. Mark McKeon said. Hazelwood police began investigating reports in December that Vargas repeatedly sexually assaulted the girl in January 2013 while he was staying with her family.

Vargas was charged in St. Louis County in February with five counts of statutory sodomy. He was arrested in New York on Friday where he is also facing charges that include sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. He's accused of sexually assaulting a teen girl at his home there. Police would not say if it was the same teen who reported the assault in Hazelwood.

Hazelwood police expect Vargas to be extradited to Missouri after the New York case is prosecuted. 

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