Tribune-Courier General Manager
A Marshall County grand jury has returned a three-count indictment against the former youth minister of Walnut Street Baptist Church in Benton.
Robert Byars, 32, was arrested by Kentucky State Police on July 1 and charged with five counts of third-degree rape, five counts of third-degree sodomy and 15 counts of unlawful transaction with an underage female who was part of his church youth group.
He waived his right to a preliminary hearing and last week the grand jury found there was enough evidence to return indictments in the case.
On the first count of unlawful transaction with a minor the grand jury found that between the dates of Dec. 12 and July 2013, Byars knowingly caused a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity on 15 different occasions.
On the second count of sodomy, 3rd degree, the grand jury found Byars engaged in deviant sexual intercourse with a person less than 18 years old, while he was the minor’s youth minister, on five different occasions.
And finally, on the count of rape, 3rd degree, the grand jury found cause to believe Byars engaged in sexual intercourse with a person less than 18 years old while he was the minor’s youth minister.
According to court documents Byars and the minor had sent each other semi-nude photos and explicit sexual messages. The investigation has also turned up cell phone messages in which Byars professes his love for the minor.
Byars resigned as youth minister of Walnut Street Baptist Church shortly before his arrest. He is being held in the Marshall County Detention Center on a $25,000 cash bond.
Byars will appear in Marshall County Circuit Court on Aug. 5.