The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
Zachry Petree, pastor of The Field Church in Markle, Indiana, pleaded guilty to one felony count of dissemination of matter harmful to minors.
A former Markle, Indiana pastor, Zachry Petree (25), admitted in Huntington Circuit Court yesterday that he asked a 16-year-old girl connected to his congregation for “sexy” pictures while also showing her nude pictures of another woman.
Petree faces up to one year in prison as part of a deal where he pleaded guilty to one felony count of dissemination of matter harmful to minors. Huntington County prosecutors will drop charges of sexual battery and child seduction against Petree if a judge accepts the deal at a scheduled sentencing January 8th.
Petree is also accused of sending pizzas to the girl’s home while he was free on bond, breaking the no contact order issued against him.
He is scheduled to appear in court again on the obstruction of justice charge later this month, where a judge will go over the status of his legal counsel.
After he pleaded guilty the judge revoked his bail and is now incarcerated in the Huntington County Jail.
Allegations that Petree, who was the pastor of The Field Church in Markle, sent sexually explicit messages to the girl surfaced this past February when she told a woman she was living with about the messages, according to court documents.
Shortly thereafter, Huntington Police and the Indiana Department of Child Services became involved and interviewed the girl as well as the couple who are her guardians, court documents said.
The girl told investigators some of the messages from Petree asked for inappropriate pictures while some sent from him showed another woman undressed, court documents said.
Some of the messages Petree is accused of sending asked the girl for sex, according to court documents.
He’s also accused of giving the girl a phone already loaded with sexually explicit images, court documents said, and of trying to kiss her.
According to court documents, church leaders with the Church of God Mountain Assembly, which oversees The Field Church, were made aware of the allegations during the investigation and were also interviewed by police investigators before charges were filed. The accusations also spread through the small congregation, court documents said.
Petree was removed from church leadership at some point during the investigation, court documents said.
In his guilty plea, filed in late November, Petree admitted to asking the girl for “sexy” pictures of herself, sending her sexually explicit pictures of another woman and giving her the phone with more sexually explicit pictures.
He also admitted in court documents that he “quickly grabbed” the girl by the upper arm one night at his home and “pulled her into me and kissed her lips.”
“I now admit that I did knowingly or intentionally disseminate matter to (the girl), a minor, that is harmful to minors,” Petree’s plea agreement reads.
While Petree awaits sentencing on that charge, he now also faces a felony count of obstruction of justice and a misdemeanor count of invasion of privacy prosecutors filed against him this past November.
In that case, Petree is accused of sending pizzas to the girl’s home while he was free on bond, breaking the no contact order issued against him, court documents said.
He’s also accused of messaging the woman the girl lived with through social media, pleading that she convince the girl to tell police investigators the girl lied about the allegations against him, according to court documents.
“I can’t get a job,” Petree is accused of writing to the woman. “My car’s getting repoed (sic) and we’re going to lose the apartment. So we are trying to find a place to live. We can’t get health or food because I’m in the system.”
“I have always tried to be a good person,” he’s accused of writing. “I don’t understand why she’s wanting me to be put in prison and be a sex offender for the rest of my life…It’s a shame that me and my wife and children are having to go through this hell because of a girl who is known to be a pathological liar. She is lying.”
“I need you to get her to tell them nothing sexual happened and that she lied,” Petree’s accused of writing. “And she stole my phone and set me up.”
“I need u (sic) to send my children some money since u all lied on me and started this crap,” Petree is accused of writing to the woman at one point.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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