A community is in shock after authorities arrested a Wilson pastor and charged him with first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.
This is all part of an ongoing joint investigation between the Wilson Police Department and the FBI.
Prior to his arrest, Daniel Heath, 33, served as an associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Wilson for three years, and before that, youth minister for seven years.
Heath’s arrest warrant states he encouraged a 16-year-old girl to engage in sexual activity, and “perform sexual activities to herself for the purpose of producing material containing a visual representation depicting this activity.”
Authorities allege this all took place between December 2017 and April 2019.
It’s unknown if the victim is connected to First Baptist Church.
“This is a very hurtful time,” Henry Skinner, Chairman of Deacons at First Baptist Church said. “We’ve had to wrap our arms around each other, because of the feelings of hurt and grief.”
Skinner worked closely with Heath at the church. He said Heath was active as an associate pastor and youth minister, attracting members from all generations, especially young people.
“A younger group of individuals, who may or may not have been churched before, found their way here, and a found a place of worship and learning, and bible study that enriched their lives, and helped meet their needs,” Skinner said. “Daniel [Heath] was a part in recruiting that.”
Skinner said they’re embracing Heath’s family and the entire congregation at First Baptist Church to move forward together.
“A faith community lives on trust,” Skinner said. “A faith community has to trust in each other. They have to believe in each other, and when that is betrayed, when that falls away, it hurts.”
A federal indictment was also filed against Heath.
FBI officials told CBS 17 the case they investigated involved a victim from Texas.
Skinner also added Heath resigned from his position at First Baptist Church.
The church will have counselors coming in to talk with members in the next one to two weeks.