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Youth leader arrested in Tooele sex abuse case

A man described as a youth leader at a Tooele church has been arrested and accused of sexually abusing a member of the congregation.

A man described as a youth leader at a Tooele church has been arrested and accused of sexually abusing a member of the congregation. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

TOOELE — A man described by Tooele police as a youth leader at his local church has been arrested and accused of sexually abusing a teenage member of the congregation.

Zachary Dale Park, 20, was booked into the Tooele County Jail on Tuesday for investigation of forcible sexual abuse, dealing in harmful materials to a minor and lewdness.

A 14-year-old boy told police he has "engaged in several sexual activities" on multiple occasions with Park since February, including viewing pornography and inappropriate touching, according to a police booking affidavit.

"It should be noted that Mr. Park is in a position of trust over the juvenile male. Mr. Park has been the juvenile male's youth religious leader for the past two years," the affidavit states.

Police attempted to question Park on Tuesday but he declined to answer questions without an attorney present, according to the affidavit. He was subsequently arrested and booked into jail.

According to police, Park was a youth leader at the New Life Christian Fellowship and met weekly with several youth from the congregation.

The senior pastor of the church, Mark Runyon, told KSL.com on Wednesday that Park helped out in different areas, including with the youth, but did not hold an official title at the church.

Nevertheless, the pastor said that does not minimize what is alleged to have occurred. He said as soon as he found out about the allegations, he was the one who contacted police.

"Our hearts are broken over the report of what happened," Pastor Runyon said. "This has completely rocked our world here, for everybody."

Investigators said as of Tuesday, there was no evidence to suggest there were additional victims. The pastor said in addition to cooperating with the investigation, support is also being offered to the alleged victim in addition to professional help.

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