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Monday, October 18, 1999

Former Austin youth minister
convicted of child sexual abuse

AUSTIN (AP) — A former youth minister faces up to 20 years in prison after he was convicted of nine counts of child sexual abuse.

Charles Richard Willits, Jr., 44, a former youth minister at Great Hills Baptist Church, was convicted Saturday. Sentencing was scheduled for Monday.

The victim, now 18, was 14 when Willits befriended him, gave him clothes and took him out of town on trips, prosecutors said.

The relationship eventually became sexual, the victim said, and he told a friend about the abuse two years later.

Defense attorney Randy Leavitt said the teen-ager lied about the relationship to get attention and couldn't back out once the police and a therapist were involved.

Prosecutor Amy Casner said the clothes Willits gave the victim — including polo shirts, a jacket and University of Florida underwear — were proof of an inappropriate and illegal relationship.

“It's time he went to jail,” Ms. Casner said.

Willits' wife testified she wasn't surprised some of his clothes ended up with the teen-ager.

“Our home is an open home,” said E.J. Willits. “The kids knew what was there. They knew that what was ours was theirs.”

Ms. Willits also said she knew her husband took out-of-town trips with the teen-ager and that he paid for at least two trips to Dallas, which cost about $500 each.

Willits also has been charged with sexual assault of a child in Denton in a separate case.

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