Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Former Odessa youth pastor gets 10 years for sex with girl from church

TAMPA — Everything had been worked out.

The former pastor had already admitted to sexually abusing one of his teenage congregants. He had agreed to serve 10 years in prison. He said nothing as he waited Thursday for a judge to pronounce the sentence.

But the girl's mother couldn't stay silent.

"He used God as a weapon," she told the judge. "Fear as a weapon. Her own beliefs as a weapon."

When the sexual encounters started, Samuel Sutter was a 25-year-old married pastor at Openwater Church in Odessa.

The girl was 15.

Sutter's responsibilities included ministering to the church members in middle school, high school and college, and that was how the two met.

They had chatted on the phone and on Twitter. Over time, they started getting together outside church, at coffee shops and malls. The sex began in the fall of 2015.

"He shoved her face into bare, sweaty mattresses, so the evidence wouldn't be on the sheets when his wife came home," the mother said in court. "He obsessively reviewed every social media account she had, every text on her phone, every email, every photo ..."

The mother spoke of Sutter overpowering the girl, putting his hands on her neck. She spoke of him forcing her to take morning-after pills to prevent her from becoming pregnant. She spoke of him threatening to leave her, if she didn't do what he wanted, to pursue one of her friends.

In the spring of 2016, the mother noticed her daughter was acting anxious, more stressed than usual. She managed to get into her daughter's phone, where she found text messages which indicated the two were sexually involved.

Hillsborough sheriff's detectives investigated and later arrested Sutter. They said most of the sex acts happened at Sutter's home, but some occurred in the women's bathroom at the church on Race Track Road in northwest Hillsborough County.

"He chipped away her self worth, her self-esteem, her sense of balance, her trust, her faith in her family, her God and her self," the mother said. "He continued to take, until all that was left was a shell of a girl who was so fearful and anxious and full of self-loathing that she felt the only way out may be to take her own life."

Since the abuse ended, the mother said her daughter can't eat certain foods or listen to the Christian music she once enjoyed. She has nightmares and panic attacks. She fears becoming close to anyone.

"Her precious gift of first love should have nothing to do with an adult, married youth minister ..." she said. "This man hurt a child. He's a dangerous predator, and unforgivable."

Sutter could have faced up to 35 years in prison.

He pleaded guilty to three charges: lewd and lascivious battery, unlawful sexual activity with a minor, and use of a computer or device to solicit illegal acts.

In addition to prison, Sutter was sentenced to 25 years of probation. He will have to register as a sex offender for life.

Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

Comments
Police release video of car that killed woman, 58, in Tampa hit and run

Police release video of car that killed woman, 58, in Tampa hit and run

Times staffTAMPA — Police have identified Sally Ann McClellan Webb, 58, as the pedestrian killed when a vehicle ran into her Sunday night as she was crossing N Nebraska Ave at Linebaugh Ave.The collision occurred about 9:15 a.m. as the victim stepped...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Trump threatens more China tariffs

Trump threatens more China tariffs

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has directed the U.S. Trade Representative to prepare new tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports as the two nations move closer to a trade war.In response, China threatened what it called "comprehensive measure...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

UPDATE, 4:49: Kiermaier is batting leadoff and playing center as expected, while Willy Adames is on the bench so Adeiny Hechavarria can play short in potentially a showcase for teams the Rays may hope to interest in a trade.Here is the Rays lineup:Ki...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tech Data sending a record 700 employees to march in Pride Parade

Tech Data sending a record 700 employees to march in Pride Parade

Among the marching bands and twirlers at Saturday’s St. Pete Pride Parade, one major sponsor, Tech Data, is sending by far a record number of employees — more than 700 at last count — to march in Florida’s largest gay pride parade.The parade, which d...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Port Richey council moves closer to minimum housing standards ordinance

PORT RICHEY — In a narrow vote, Port Richey took another step toward enacting an ordinance that will create minimum housing standards in the city. Port Richey City Council members approved in a split vote last week the first reading of an ordinance d...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Big Ten reaps recruiting bounty in Tampa Bay

Big Ten reaps recruiting bounty in Tampa Bay

Largo High defensive back Solomon Brown had plenty of college options with offers from 20 Division I-A schools. Still, the three-star recruit did not need to go through a prolonged process to figure out where he wanted to go.Two weeks ago, Brown comm...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 2 hours ago
A valet at this South Tampa Publix will park your car as you shop

A valet at this South Tampa Publix will park your car as you shop

TAMPA — Publix shoppers in South Tampa who hate circling the lot for parking can now toss their keys to a valet.The Publix at Dale Mabry and Neptune started testing a free valet service last week that could expand to more stores. Spokesman Brian West...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Just to preface this, the NFL Network's annual countdown of the league's top 100 players is a made-for-TV deal, good for summer offseason conversation but not carrying any huge amount of real significance.Having said that, it's worth noting that for ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Hernando County Animal Services searching for pet owners after Brooksville seizure

Hernando County Animal Services searching for pet owners after Brooksville seizure

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Animal Services is looking for the owners of dogs and cats that were seized from a Brooksville home last week.Animal Services, along with the Sheriff’s Office, removed 60 dogs and 23 cats from Carol Allard, 71, after...
Updated: 3 hours ago