Stephen Houlihan, communications pastor at Fellowship of the Rockies in Colorado Springs, Colorado, stands accused of sending sexually explicit messages and pictures to a teenage church girl and exploiting his relationship with her.
Stephen Houlihan, 28, was arrested June 7 on suspicion of attempted sexual assault of a child under 15 by one in a position of trust, internet luring of a child with intent to exploit and wholesale promotion of obscenity to a minor, all felonies, court records show. He posted $30,000 bond Monday.
The girl’s family told police they had known Houlihan as a pastor for four to five years and trusted Houlihan, the affidavit says. The family went camping with Houlihan and his wife over Memorial Day weekend, and had gone to Mexico with them the last three years to build houses.
In a June 6 interview with police, the girl said she had met Houlihan at church, where he “does media and is a pastor who sometimes preaches on Sundays,” the affidavit says. She turned 16 in May.
The girl told police that their relationship changed recently — “they had been talking and became closer and now Stephen wanted more to do with her,” the affidavit says. Then for her birthday, she went to his house to play games, and after that, he said “he wanted to start doing more than hanging out.”
They kissed on multiple occasions, and Houlihan told the girl he wanted to have sex with her, the affidavit says.
Houlihan and the girl primarily communicated on Instagram.
He sent her a pictures of his genitals before her birthday “because he wanted her to be happy and feel special,” the affidavit says.
The morning of June 5, the girl’s mother discovered the messages on her daughter’s phone and felt betrayed because the family knew him, the affidavit says.
During an interview with police, Houlihan said that he and the girl had known each other for years, but “they had grown close in the last month to month and a half, becoming best friends, being able to tell each other everything,” the affidavit says. He admitted sending her suggestive messages, which he called a “mistake,” and that he had sent her “more than one and less than five” pictures of his genitals.
He admitted kissing her twice on her birthday — once when he picked her up and once when he took her home — and said that the girl “wanted to go all the way with him,” the affidavit says.
Houlihan began working at the church as a communications designer in June 2013, according to what appears to be his LinkedIn page. He apparently left in September 2015 before returning in January 2017 to be a worship pastor. He became a communications pastor in January 2018.