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Former Durango church youth leader pleads guilty in sex assault case

Preston Edward Pitcher faces up to 60 days in jail; sentencing scheduled for Jan. 12

A former Durango church youth leader pleaded guilty Tuesday to four counts of unlawful sexual contact and now faces up to 60 days in jail after victims came forward alleging the church leader inappropriately touched them.

Preston Edward Pitcher, 38, was arrested June 22 after three victims came forward. A fourth victim came forward shortly after Pitcher was arrested, and he faced four counts of unlawful sexual contact, a misdemeanor.

Court records show the incidents were similar in that Pitcher, who had worked for First Baptist Church of Durango for 10 years, met the alleged victims in his role as a youth leader, befriended them and then made sexual advances.

The alleged incidents occurred in 2016, 2018 and 2020. Sixth Judicial District Attorney Christian Champagne said previously the fourth victim recounted incidents that occurred “within the past three years.”

Pitcher on Tuesday pleaded guilty to all four counts, signing a plea agreement that could carry a sentence of up to 60 days in jail and four years of supervised probation.

Pitcher also must take a sex offender evaluation and may be subject to various treatments. He must also register as a sex offender and faces possible court fees and fines.

Pitcher will be sentenced Jan. 12 by District Judge Anne Woods, who has discretion on the amount of jail time to be served, if any.

First Baptist Church Lead Pastor Jimmy Thoma previously told The Durango Herald none of the incidents occurred at church-sanctioned events.

The Durango Police Department interviewed Pitcher on June 22, at which time he told authorities he was asleep and not aware of his actions during one of the incidents. But he did not deny it happened and admitted to similar acts in the past, according to court records.

“Eventually, Preston was honest and admitted that he was not asleep and had touched (the victims),” the investigating officer wrote in the arrest affidavit. “Preston stated that he was aroused during these times.”


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