A former youth pastor has been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to felony sexual assault charges following a two year relationship with a 16-year old girl who was a church member. But authorities continue to investigate the husband and wife pastors of the church, for not reporting the offenses when they learned about them.
Angel De Los Santos, 26, a former youth minister at The Life Church in Odessa, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault of a child, one count of indecency with a child and also one count of criminal solicitation of a minor on Nov. 17 and has been sentenced to the maximum 20 years in prison.
But the investigation continues regarding co-pastors Donald and Gina Haislett who were arrested Tuesday for failure to report child abuse. According to the affidavit Donald and Gina Haislett learned of the improper relationship between De Los Santos and a 14-year-old victim on July 30. Yet according to a probable cause affidavit more than one victim may have been involved and received inappropriate text messages from De Los Santos.
The next day the affidavit states that Donald Haislett started contacting the parents of “multiple victims” which De Los Santos had been texting inappropriately. On Aug. 1 the Haisletts dismissed De Los Santos after they conducted their investigation and De Los Santos reportedly acknowledged the sexual assault.
On Aug. 28, the Odessa Police Department initiated an investigation into a report of sexual assault of a child after the victim’s mother contacted police and made a report. On Sept. 2 the victim was taken to Harmony Home and was interviewed by a forensic investigator, De Los Santos was arrested and charged with six counts of sexual assault of a child six days later, according to the affidavits.
“The main thing is that a thorough investigation was conducted and I know several interviews were made,” Cpl. Steve LeSueur said on why the arrests of Donald and Gina Haislett took several months to occur. “It isn’t uncommon for any investigation to take several weeks to conduct.”
According to the affidavit, on Sept. 8 Kristina Robles, De Los Santos’ wife, reportedly reached out to Gina Haislett informing her that OPD detectives were on the way to interview her. The affidavit states that Gina Haislett told Robles not to lie to police but “not to volunteer information.”
Both Gina and Donald Haislett were interviewed by police on Sept. 24 who informed investigators they learned of the sexual assault in July, according to the affidavit. Warrants were issued for the arrest of Donald and Gina Haislett on Monday and both were arrested and charged with failure to report child abuse, a class A misdemeanor, on Tuesday. Officials at the Ector County Jail confirmed that both pastors were released Tuesday on bonds each totaling $1,000.
LeSeuer said none of the other alleged victims, who were reportedly receiving text messages from De Los Santos, have contacted police but police are encouraging anyone with information to come forward.
“If they were (more victims come forward) it would be thoroughly investigated,” LeSueur said. “Detectives are aware of everything in the probable cause affidavit and at this time this is the charge they felt was appropriate. The investigation is ongoing and if anyone is aware or has any knowledge on this case we encourage them to come forward with any information they might have.”
Several calls to The Life Church were not returned on Wednesday.
Amy Smith, spokesperson for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, said that internal investigations at churches regarding child abuse is a common practice.
“These types of crimes unfortunately are commonly handled by the church internally just like this church did,” Smith said. “That has the effect to continue to endanger more children. Typically they try to handle it internally thinking they are doing the best thing for the church but they are enabling that person to continue abusing children.”
“We really are glad and thankful for the police department there who are prosecuting this crime,” Smith said. “I think it will do a lot to protect kids and send a clear message to churches or other organizations who may hear an allegation of abuse and they will think twice about handling it on their own.”