A judge has ordered a former youth minister to prison for 25 years for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old Hancock County girl who attended his church.
David Matthew Thorne, 36, of Picayune learned his fate Monday when Circuit Judge Lisa Dodson sentenced him on one count each of sexual battery and touching a child for lustful purposes, District Attorney Joel Smith said in a news release Tuesday.
Dodson, ruling in Hancock County Circuit Court, ordered Thorne to serve his full prison term without consideration for early release. She also ordered him to register as a sex offender the rest of his life after his release from prison.
Thorne was youth minister for Goodyear Baptist Church in Picayune when the crimes occurred.
The girl had reported the allegations to Hancock County sheriff’s investigators in March 2016.
Investigators learned Thorne had sexually assaulted the girl twice in January and February of 2016 in the church van near her home after youth events, said ADA Chris Daniel, who prosecuted the case. Thorne and the girl were communicating with each other on social media with the Kik Messenger app, and sending pictures before and during the sexual contact, Daniel said.
Thorne pleaded guilty on Aug. 14. Dodson delayed sentencing and ordered the Mississippi Department of Corrections to conduct a pre-sentence investigation.
Prosecutors said Thorne apologized during his plea hearing and said he sought counseling for sexual addiction after his first arrest on March 15, 2016. Thorne was arrested again Jan. 13 after indictment on additional charges.
Smith said Dodson had this to say to Thorne during his plea hearing: “You were in a position of trust for all of these young people in the youth group and you chose to molest this girl. Then, you chose to send these pictures, and then there was a second occasion.”
Thorne had worked for the church about nine years, since 2007.
“The defendant was in a place of leadership, charged with the responsibility to minister to the victim,” DA Smith said. “Unfortunately, he chose to betray her trust and that of her family and the church for his own sexual desires.”
Thorne also faces similar charges in Pearl River County.