BY ART BUKOWSKI
TRAVERSE CITY — A convicted sex offender from Benzie County is accused of sexually assaulting a young boy at a local church.
Steven Richard, 28, of Honor, is charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Richard had contact with the boy at Immanuel Baptist Church in Garfield Township on Jan. 6, court documents show. He encountered the boy, 6, in a church bathroom during a church service and engaged in sexual activity.
Richard, who attended the church but didn’t work or volunteer there, told church Pastor Matt Herron about the incident a short time after it happened, a police report shows. He asked Herron to not involve police, and said he wanted to contact the boy’s family for reconciliation.
Herron conferred with a few other church officials, and they made a “unanimous decision” to immediately call police, the report shows.
About the time he told Herron, Richard also called his mother and told her to come to the church.
“Mom, I did it again,” he told her, according to a police report.
Richard was released about six months ago from military prison in Leavenworth, Kan. He was convicted roughly six years ago of sexual assaults against multiple children, a police report said. He was on federal probation and wearing a GPS tether at the time of the incident.
Herron said church members were informed by email and a hard copy letter of the incident after it happened. The situation has been difficult for the church, he said.
“Our hearts are so saddened over this,” he said. “Our prayers are certainly with everyone involved, especially the child.”
Church officials were aware of Richard’s past, Herron said, but didn’t want to reject him because of it. The church is now reviewing its safety and security policies to see if they can be strengthened in the wake of the incident, he said.
Richard was arraigned in 86th District Court on Tuesday and bound over to Circuit Court. His attorney, David Clark, declined comment.