Youth minister charged with sex crime against child

Tyler Simkus Smither (Photo: New Hanover County Jail)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Investigators say a man who served as a youth pastor at a Wilmington church has been charged with indecent liberties with a child.

New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Jerry Brewer says investigators arrested Tyler Simkus Smither last night. Brewer says Smither worked as a youth pastor at Harbor United Methodist Church on Masonboro Loop Road. The church’s pastor confirmed to WWAY that Smither had worked with the church for two years until last night, when he was fired after the church learned of the charge against him.

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Pastor Russ Nanney also sent WWAY this statement:

“As a church and denomination, we hold all staff members to the highest form of moral behavior, a behavior that is free of any sexual misconduct. We believe that all human beings have sacred worth because they are created in God’s image, and our behavior must reflect this belief at all times and places. This charge against Tyler Smither means that there is a possible betrayal of sacred trust, a possible exploitation of power against a minor, and a possible violation against God’s creation.

“As a church, we take any allegation of abuse very seriously. Providing a safe environment for everyone at our church is our absolute highest priority. When we learned of these charges, we immediately terminated Tyler Smither’s employment at Harbor United Methodist Church. In the meantime, we will cooperate fully with local law enforcement authorities during this investigation.

“This has been a difficult situation for everyone involved, including the members of the congregation, but especially for the family who came forth with the allegation. While the family was not connected to the church or to our community, you are invited to keep them in your prayers.

“It is out of our concern for those persons and for Tyler Smither’s due process rights that we are unable to discuss the details of the charges.”

According to a warrant, the alleged crime happened between Nov. 20 and 21 and involved an 11-year-old boy. Brewer said the victim was not a member of Harbor Church. Brewer also said the allegation is Internet-based.

Smither had his first court appearance Friday afternoon. The judge said he is not allowed to have any contact with a minor, nor is he allowed to have any internet access or access to a mobile or digital device.

During his appearance the prosecutor said more charges will likely be filed. Smither remains in the New Hanover County Jail under $100,000 secured bond, his court date is scheduled for December 15th.

According to his Facebook page, Smither is from Raleigh, where he also served as an intern and youth leader at a church. His page also says he worked at a church in Mississippi as a youth director.