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Church parents upset after youth pastor arrested on child porn charge

Religion and Belief

Parents at a church in Oakdale, Calif., where a 27-year-old youth pastor was arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography are expressing concern that their own children may have been victims.

Tyler Bliss was arrested Monday after two search warrants were served -- one at his home in Oakdale northwest of Modesto and the other at Bethel Assembly of God, where he oversaw hundreds of teens in the junior high, high school and college ministries.

After the arrest, the church's board of directors issued a statement to KOVR-TV in Sacramento expressing its "extreme shock" over the arrest and pledging to work with investigators.

But parents of children enrolled in the programs expressed concern.

“I’m concerned because my son was at one of the youth groups a few weeks ago,” Billy Elliot, father to a 10-year-old boy, told KTXL-TV. “I’m going to straight-up ask him, ‘Were you touched, talked to, pictures took in any way?’ -- if anything abnormal happened.”

Carissa Higginbotham, a spokeswoman for the nearby Ceres Police Department, which took the lead in the investigation, said images retrieved from computers and electronic devices during the searches appeared to show children under the age of 13 engaged in sexual acts.

“We were very concerned because of the access he has to children,” she told the Modesto Bee.

Bliss' profile on the church's website -- which has since been removed -- indicated that he had been overseeing youth programs since 2009, during which "Tyler has had the privilege of seeing hundreds of teenagers come to Christ throughout his ministry here at Bethel," the Bee reported.

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jason.wells@latimes.com

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