South Carolina police have charged a church volunteer with child sexual abuse, accusing Jacob Hazlett, 28, of molesting young boys at NewSpring Church in North Charleston. Hazlett faces seven counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 11 years old, ABC4 reports.
NewSpring Volunteer Abused Young Boys, Police Say
Hazlett was initially arrested for abusing a 3-year-old boy on Wednesday, November 28, 2018. He was charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and denied bond on allegations that he performed oral sex on the young child in a church bathroom, Live5 reports. That assault occurred on Sunday, November 25, 2018, when Hazlett was supervising a group of 3 to 5 year olds in the church’s “Tree Room” during a service.
Police say surveillance footage shows Hazlett escorting the young child to the bathroom and helping him use the toilet. After cleaning the boy up, Hazlett allegedly looks around to ensure privacy, then performs oral sex on the boy while he sits on the toilet.
Surveillance Video Shows At Least 14 Victims
The church has now identified at least 13 other victims. A civil lawsuit filed against NewSpring says that surveillance footage from a daycare bathroom shows Hazlett molesting at least 14 children. Court documents report that the daycare’s bathroom door is split into upper and lower halves, and that the upper half remains open while a child uses the toilet.
In legal filings, NewSpring Church has been accused of providing negligent supervision over the daycare. “The reason the church was able to identify 14 victims so quickly is because this was all happening right under their nose on that security camera that is being monitored live,” according to Josh Slavin, an attorney representing one family. “They just missed it.”
Volunteer Served 8 Months Before Being Caught
Hazlett volunteered at NewSpring, a megachurch in North Charleston, for almost eight months before his misconduct was discovered, according to a timeline released by the church. He passed a criminal background check prior to being accepted as a volunteer, according to NewSpring representative Suzanne Swift.
“NewSpring is steadfastly committed to safety and security,” the church wrote in a letter, “and because of this commitment, we have an extensive screening process for all adults before they are allowed to volunteer with children, birth through 12th grade.”
Church Representatives Claim To Have Followed Guidelines
Church representatives say they became aware of the abuse on Monday, November 26, a day after Hazlett assaulted the 3-year-old boy. Spokesperson Swift claims that church staff immediately reported the incident to law enforcement authorities and took steps to prevent Hazlett from entering church property. The church sent a letter to parents who use the daycare telling them that they were cooperating with the police.
Law enforcement authorities say surveillance video evidence shows Hazlett molesting numerous young boys that he supervised at NewSpring Church.
Civil Lawsuit Accuses NewSpring Church Of Negligence
A civil lawsuit filed on November 28, 2018 claims that surveillance video shows Hazlett assaulting young boys in 14 separate incidents going back 90 days, which is how long the church stores surveillance footage for.
“We know of 14 victims in 90 days of footage,” says attorney Josh Slavin, “there could be countless more victims that we just don’t know more about yet.”
Police report that Hazlett has now admitted to the crimes, confessing to “inappropriately touching numerous children” at the church. Police say Hazlett has also admitted to videotaping the misconduct and taking inappropriate photographs of the children, using his self-produced materials for “personal gratification.” Detectives claim that Hazlett has admitted to finding young boys sexually attractive, but knowing that his actions were wrong.
Hazlett Faces Life In Prison
Reporters at WCNC have learned that Hazlett worked in Charlotte prior to moving to North Charleston. He previously coached for the Lake Norman Giants and volunteered at the Cove Church in Mooresville.
He faces a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum of life if convicted on the charges against him.