An Elmhurst congregation is "heartbroken and devastated" following the arrest of a longtime youth minister accused of having a sexual relationship with a teen churchgoer, a pastor said Tuesday.
"Unfortunately, he had this secret side none of us knew about," said the Rev. Jim Lennon of West Suburban Community Church.
Former associate pastor and youth minister Darin Evans, 41, is charged with having sexual contact with the girl in parks, cemeteries and men's restrooms, and during a religious retreat in Wisconsin.
The encounters began in 2004 when the victim was 16 and being spiritually counseled by Evans for "adolescent issues," authorities said.
Evans groomed the girl for abuse by showering her with gifts and attention while being in a position of "trust, supervision or authority," Assistant DuPage County State's Attorney Ann Celine O'Hallaren said in bond court Tuesday.
"The victim became completely trusting," she said.
Some of the abuse took place in a vehicle outside College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn while the girl was still in high school, according to O'Hallaren.
She said Evans told the victim to keep the relationship a secret "to protect his family" and threatened to commit suicide if anyone found out.
Elmhurst police arrested him Monday, about a month after the allegations came to light. Lennon said the girl's family and church officials immediately contacted police after speaking with her in February. Evans later admitted to the alleged conduct, prosecutors said.
Evans worked at the church for 11 years before leaving late last year to take a job with another church-related organization in Ohio, Lennon said. He described the former youth minister as "the last person" anyone would suspect of sexual abuse.
"Our church is completely heartbroken and devastated," Lennon said. "He was a trusted friend and co-worker, and everybody loved him. Nobody here saw anything remotely out of line."
About 200 people regularly attend Sunday services at West Suburban Community Church, 825 Van Auken St. The congregation is praying for the alleged victim, as well as Evans' family, Lennon said
"We're just trying to put our faith in the Lord that justice is done," he said.
Evans, a married father of three now living in Dover, Ohio, has no prior criminal record.
He returned to the area to speak to police as soon as he learned of the investigation, defense attorney Michael Fleming said, adding there were no allegations involving other minors.
"These allegations arise from eight or nine years ago," he told Judge Elizabeth Sexton in bond court.
Evans faces 11 counts of criminal sexual assault and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. If convicted of all charges, he would receive a minimum 47 years in prison because of consecutive-sentencing laws.
Evans was held on $300,000 bail, meaning he would have to post $30,000 to be released. He was ordered to surrender his passport, stay away from the alleged victim, and have no contact with minors other than his own children.
His next court date is April 2 in front of Judge Daniel Guerin.