BOONE, Iowa -- A year-long investigation has led to the arrest of a former pastor in Boone after he allegedly had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl he was counseling.
Police say 47-year-old Joel Waltz met his victim when she was just 11 years old.
According to the police report, the girl had a troubled past. Waltz, serving as her youth pastor at Grace Community Church, counseled her. He met with her multiple times per week, and allegedly groomed her for a sexual relationship.
Police say he gave the girl gifts and wrote her letters, finally confessing his love for her when she was 16. The relationship then turned physical. Ames police say the sexual relationship lasted two years before the victim reported it to officials.
“It's really not uncommon for victims to wait some time in a case such as this before they'll come forward and report the inappropriate contact, and that's what it was in this case, too. The victim finally felt confident coming forward and speaking to us,” said Geoff Huff of the Ames Police Department.
The age of consent in Iowa is 16; however, police say the relationship was illegal because Waltz was serving as a counselor or therapist to the victim.
“This is someone being taken advantage of in a vulnerable situation, they're horrible cases. They're horrible for the victims, and it's going to have long-lasting effects for her,” said Huff.
It's also unsettling for people like Josh Rockwell, who lives right across from the church.
“At least they caught on to it, ‘cause we watch them play over there every Wednesday night for church and stuff like that at the kids' night. It can happen anywhere, it doesn't matter, you hear about it in schools all the time, too, and there's only so much you can do for filtering them out,” said Rockwell.
Police are not aware if Waltz has had similar relationships with other victims, and are encouraging anyone to come forward if they have.
Channel 13 tried to contact Waltz at his house, but he was not home.
Grace Community Church also did not respond to attempts to get in contact about these charges.
Waltz does not appear on the church's website, and has a preliminary hearing on April 3rd in Story County court.