JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A man formerly employed at a Jacksonville church is being accused of "grooming" and molesting a child consistently throughout her teenage years.
Jeffrey Bedwell, 38, was arrested for lewd and lascivious molestation, unlawful sexual activity and lewd and lascivious battery.
According to an arrest report, the crimes took place over several years starting in 2013 and ending in 2018.
The report states Bedwell became close with the victim when she was 12 years old and used text messages and Snapchat to communicate with her.
As the two continued to communicate, the arrest report said Bedwell began grooming the child at the age of 13 with text messages, photos and sexual conversations.
During this time, Bedwell was requesting inappropriate photos to be sent to him. By the time the victim was 14 years old the two had begun sending pictures back and forth to each other, the report said.
The exchanges gradually upgraded from pictures to videos.
Bedwell allegedly had two sexual encounters with the victim when she was 14, according to the arrest report.
The sexual assault continued up until the victim was 17 years old, the report said.
During the investigation, police found that Bedwell would sexually assault the child at his home or inside his vehicle.
Based on the evidence, Bedwell was arrested on July 8 and was booked into the Duval County jail.
Bedwell was employed as a pastor at Chets Creek Church up until 2019, according to Chets Creek Church. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Monday Bedwell was a pastor at "multiple area churches" at the time the crimes were allegedly committed.
Spike Hogan, the Senior Pastor of Chets Creek Church where Bedwell was a former employee sent First Coast News a statement on his recent arrest.
Chets Creek was shocked and devastated to learn of the charges made against a former member of its staff. Jeff Bedwell’s employment with the church was terminated more than two years ago for issues unrelated to the current charges now made against him. During his time with Chets, he was subjected to the same thorough vetting and background check process that we require of all leaders, and there was no hint of criminal activity. Had we learned of, or had any reason to believe there was wrongdoing, we would have reported it to law enforcement immediately. With his recent arrest, we will cooperate with law enforcement in any way we can as they conduct their investigation.
The safety of our members and families remains a top priority for us. The trust that they place in Chets Creek is precious and something that we work to earn and maintain every day. To that end, we are also constantly looking for ways to make our church even safer. With God’s help and guidance, we will do just that.
Right now, our primary focus is to pray for any person who has been harmed and support them in any way they need. Please pray with us as we are once again reminded that we live in a dark world that needs help and hope that only God can bring.
Bedwell is being held on a $500,012 bond.
His next court appearance is scheduled for July 29 and 9 a.m.
JSO says the possibility exists that there may be people with information about additional crimes. Police are asking anyone having additional information related to this case or the listed suspect, contact the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at 904-630-0500 or JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org.
To remain anonymous and receive a possible reward up to $3,000 contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.