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Megachurch had 4 alleged child predators — and over a dozen victims, SC police say

Jacop Hazlett
Jacop Hazlett Dorchester County Detention Center

A volunteer at the NewSpring Church campus in North Charleston, South Carolina faces charges for sexually abusing more than a dozen young boys in his care last year, a lawsuit says.

But he’s not the only one.

Another volunteer in Florence was charged in 2016 for kissing and fondling a teenage boy at the NewSpring church campus there, WBTW reported. In Anderson County, yet another volunteer at NewSpring faced charges in 2016 after police say he fondled a 10-year-old boy, according to WYFF. In early 2018, police arrested a former youth pastor and then-volunteer at NewSpring’s Charleston church for sexual exploitation and solicitation of a minor, WCIV reports.

The Anderson, South Carolina-based megachurch NewSpring has 14 campuses around the state. Other locations include Rock Hill, Hilton Head, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.

A new report from the Charleston Post and Courier details the allegations against the three former volunteers and one employee, and the church’s response.

“Each time NewSpring reckoned with the fallout from these allegations, the church was consistently measured in its response. Its leaders offered nearly identical explanations in every case: NewSpring vetted its staff and volunteers through an extensive screening process. The accused individuals had been removed from their posts. Evil was to blame,” the Post and Courier reports.

Miracle Balsitis and Amanda Johnson talk about why it was important to remove a photo of their father, Lane Hurley, from a wall at Matthews United Methodist Church. Hurley was convicted of sexually abusing his niece.

In the most recent case, police say NewSpring volunteer Jacop Hazlett was caring for 3- and 4-year-old boys at the church when he was accused of performing oral sex on one of the boys in a bathroom, McClatchy reports. When a parent complained, church officials reviewed 90 days of video from the daycare room and found more than a dozen incidents with Hazlett assaulting the preschoolers, a lawsuit says.

According to a lawsuit filed by parents, the church only keeps video for 90 days. The court filing says video showed the 28-year-old taking another 3-year-old boy to the bathroom, taking pictures of his genitals and assaulting him.

This is not the first time Hazlett faced charges for assaulting a child. When he was still a teenager, Hazlett “admitted to ‘kissing and touching’ a boy younger than 13 ‘between his legs,’ according to Columbiana County, Ohio juvenile court documents,” the Post and Courier reports.

Police charged Hazlett as a juvenile and he later pleaded guilty to a lesser attempted assault charge, avoiding sex offender registration, the newspaper reported.

Hazlett later moved to North Carolina and volunteered for a church there, McClatchy reported. Police in Davidson, North Carolina are looking into an accusation against Hazlett from a 7-year-old boy there, according to WCIV.

Autumn Bolden-Smith sang and spoke briefly of her experience as a sexual assault victim in April 2016 at a National Crime Victims' Rights Week program at First Baptist Church of Gulfport.

Here are the accusations against former NewSpring volunteers and employees:

Jacop Hazlett: Facing charges for sexually abusing children, police say Hazlett assaulted preschool-age boys while he was a volunteer at the church daycare in North Charleston in 2018, McClatchy reports.

Caleb Lide Jordan: Police charged the former NewSpring youth pastor “with four counts of exploitation of a minor, including solicitation of a minor for sex” in March 2018, WCIV reports. Those charges are still pending in Dorchester County, according to online court records. NewSpring officials deny that Jordan had any inappropriate contact with children at the church, the outlet reported. A church official told the Post and Courier that Jordan “served as a church volunteer after stepping down from his paid position” in 2015.

Leo LaSalle Comissiong: Officers arrested Comissiong in 2016 after a staff member caught the then-20-year-old volunteer kissing and fondling a 15-year-old, WYFF reports. Police charged him with criminal sexual conduct with a minor, but the outcome of the case is unclear from court records.

Chaz Mckinsey Wood: Police say Wood fondled a 10-year-old boy while volunteering at the NewSpring campus in Anderson, South Carolina, in December 2015, WYFF reports. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of assault and battery in December 2017 and received a 10-year suspended sentence, court records show.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.


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