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South Dakota pastor charged in Rock County

LUVERNE -- A pastor at a Lutheran church in Watertown, S.D., has been charged with criminal sexual conduct in Rock County after a teenage boy reported the man's alleged behavior to staff at Southwest Youth Services (SWYS) in Magnolia.

The investigation into the matter led police to the man's home, where authorities said they found child pornography on his computer and arrested him.

Dennis Adelbert Hayes, 67, is charged in Rock County with second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a 13- to 15-year-old victim while in a position of authority, fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct of a clergy member during a meeting for religious advice and fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct with non-consensual sexual contact.

Hayes was released on his own recognizance in Watertown, and bail was set in Rock County at $10,000. Conditions of release in Rock County include no contact with the victim, the teen's family or any person under the age of 18.

The complaint from Rock County states the victim, a member of Hayes' congregation, accused him of putting his hands down the back of the victim's pants, touching his bare buttocks.

The teen said he views Hayes as a pastor and a father figure. On June 27, Hayes picked the teen up from SWYS for an outing to the library in Luverne. During the drive, Hayes allegedly held the boy's hand and told him how much he loved him. While at the library, the teen said Hayes rubbed his back, making him feel uncomfortable.

Returning to SWYS, Hayes allegedly hugged the teen in the parking lot. During the hug, the teen said Hayes rubbed his back, and then put his hand down into the teen's pants and underwear, rubbing his buttocks for about two seconds before removing his hand and telling the boy he loved him.

The teen indicated that in his one year stay at SWYS, Hayes would visit every couple weeks, taking him off the premises once a month or so. While off the campus, Hayes would allegedly rub the teen's back and chest both on top and underneath his shirt.

During an interview June 28, Hayes told authorities he had known the boy for about three years, since he was enrolled in the St. Martin Christian School, which Hayes oversaw. He indicated he fostered a relationship with the boy at the various juvenile centers the teen was transferred to, even researching SWYS on the Internet to find out its location when the boy was transferred there.

When asked about the incident the victim had reported, Hayes said is was not unusual to hold hands during a car ride with the boy, but he tried not to initiate it to much because it was "weird" for boys and men to be that close. Hugging between the two was normal, and he admitted to rubbing the boy's back and chest when the teen was upset about something.

Hayes said he may have touched the victim's buttocks during the hug the day before because the boy's pants were hanging low. Later he admitted to putting his hands inside the teen's pants and underwear.

Hayes denied any homosexual relationship with the boy. He indicated anyone looking at the hug in the parking lot would consider it inappropriate.

Court appearances are scheduled for Hayes Monday in Rock County and Tuesday in Codington County, S.D.

A call to the Codington County Attorney's Office regarding pending charges in South Dakota was not returned.

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