A former Denton youth pastor accused of multiple child-related sex charges worked at Denton Bible Church from 1995 to 2001, church officials said Thursday.
Robert Shiflet, 50, of Denton is charged with four counts of child sex trafficking-related crimes dating back to 1997, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas announced in a news release Wednesday. He pled not guilty Wednesday and a jury trial has been set for July 27.
According to the indictment, he is accused of transporting three different minors for illegal sexual activity around May 1997, March 2001 and from June to September 2002. The third minor in 2002 was also coerced to cross state lines for illegal sexual activity, according to court documents.
The release states he worked as a youth pastor in Little Rock during the time of the incidents and then later moved to Denton. A statement from Denton Bible Church says they’re cooperating with authorities and are aware the accusations overlap his tenure with the Denton church.
“Church leadership grieve with and are in prayer for the victims of this tragic situation,” the statement said.
Denton Bible Church officials said Shiflet worked in the church’s youth ministry programs in 2001 when he left to take another job.
Stephanie Betz and Lauren Peters are sisters that were a part of Shiflet’s youth group at Denton Bible Church in the late 1990s and recall Shiflet acting inappropriately during his tenure.
Although Betz, 36, was never physically assaulted, she said he groomed her and that he would take her out for breakfast and drop her off at school sometimes.
“He told me at one point while dropping me off at school… I was really upset and crying and I was in the passenger’s seat of his car and I was lamenting about my relationship with my dad [after my mom passed away in May of 1998],” Betz said. “He said that I was beautiful and that my dad should be telling me I was beautiful every day otherwise men would take advantage of me. And I was 14.”
Betz said she’s been speaking with old friends who were in the same youth group.
“The general sentiment is wanting to know who it was and wanting to support them,” Betz said.
Peters, 33, said Shiflet reached out to her in 2005 to ask her if she knew about a girl who was making accusations of an inappropriate relationship against him.
“He said these [accusations] weren’t true but he wanted to talk with me to make sure she hadn’t been trying to contact me,” Peters said. “He specifically said he thought she was jealous of my relationship with him and his family and the time I’ve spent [with them]. It was such a bizarre situation that I ended up not communicating with him after that aside from the occasional run-in around town.”
Shiflet was indicted by a grand jury on June 2 on the child sex trafficking charges and was arrested at his home in Denton on June 12. Court records show he was released the same day with conditions.
The penalty for transporting minors for sex trafficking is up to 15 years in prison, while the penalty for coercion is up to 10 years. Both charges can also include a fine up to $250,000 and up to five years of supervised release.
Anyone with information on the case is advised to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.
ZAIRA PEREZ can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @zairalperez.