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ILLINOIS: Youth Minister Arrested

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Youth Minster Barry Caudle charged with soliciting a child for sex acts after an undercover online investigationMARENGO – A Marengo youth minister who used to work at a Sandwich church was arrested Tuesday, Nov. 1, on charges of soliciting a child for sex acts after an undercover online investigation in Rock Island.

Investigators with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office arrested Barry Caudle, 39, Tuesday morning at the Marengo First Assembly of God, 22817 W. Grant Highway, where Caudle served as a youth minister.

Maura Possley, deputy press secretary for Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, confirmed Caudle previously worked at Harvest Chapel in Sandwich.

According to the “Work and Education” portion of a Facebook profile for a Barry Caudle who works at the Marengo First Assembly of God, he worked at Harvest Chapel in Sandwich from February 2004 to October 2010. The Facebook profile also said Caudle graduated in 1990 from Waterman High School.

Attempts to reach the lead pastor at Harvest Chapel on Tuesday evening were not successful.

The case against Caudle began about three months ago with the Rock Island Police Department’s undercover investigation. Caudle solicited an officer posing online as a 14-year-old girl for sex acts, believing she was an underage girl, according to a news release from the attorney general’s office.

About a month ago, the case was handed over to Madigan’s office to investigate, leading to Tuesday’s arrest.

Caudle, who lives with his wife in Marengo, was charged in Rock Island County with three counts of indecent solicitation of a child – a Class 3 felony punishable by up to five years in prison – and one count each of grooming and unlawful luring of a minor – Class 4 felonies punishable by up to three years in prison.

Bond for Caudle was set at $150,000. He was taken into custody by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office.

There was no church service at the time investigators arrested Caudle, Possley said.

Wade Heimer, lead pastor at Marengo First Assembly of God, said the church was made aware of Tuesday’s arrest and will “cooperate fully” with the investigation. He said he and the church are “stunned” about the allegations and encouraged community members to contact local authorities if they have relevant information.

He declined to comment further or respond to questions about Caudle’s background.

On his blog, Caudle wrote: “I have been in ministry for 17 years and I love kids and love to serve, and just love people.” According to his Facebook homepage, Caudle began serving as a youth minister at Marengo First Assembly of God in November 2010.

Caudle, who is in custody at the McHenry County Jail, is expected to be transported later this month to Rock Island County, where the charges were filed.

The biggest concern for the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office is whether there are local victims or community members with information for further investigations into Caudle, Undersheriff Andy Zinke said.

“We ask them to come forward. Our concern is for the community,” Zinke said.

DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said his office has not been contacted by the attorney general’s office regarding charges against Caudle. An online search of traffic and criminal cases on a website maintained by the office of Maureen Josh, DeKalb County circuit clerk,  revealed Caudle has not had any charges filed against him in DeKalb County. The database includes criminal cases filed from 2003 to the present.

Madigan’s office, with a grant from the Department of Justice, administers the Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children task force, which investigates child exploitation crimes and trains law enforcement.

Police departments throughout the state have special agents, deputized by the FBI, who pose online as minors to investigate child exploitation crimes.

• Daily Chronicle news editor Kate Schott and reporter Nicole Weskerna contributed to this report.