BENTONVILLE, Ark. — A former youth pastor in Bentonville has taken a plea deal, pleading guilty to 13 counts of sexual assault on Friday, Feb. 24.
In August 2022, Hord was first arrested by Bentonville Police Department after a child abuse case was reported by First Baptist Church. On Aug. 23, he was charged with sexual indecency with a child and arrested two days later, according to officials.
In a search warrant, investigators said they found conversations on Hord's cell phone with potential victims and that after finding photos on his computer, there could have been 30 more potential victims.
On Oct. 3, 2022, Hord pleaded not guilty to his original charges of eight counts of sexual assault, three counts of distributing, possession or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child and sexual indecency with a child.
However, on Feb. 24, 2023, he pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree sexual assault, a plea deal that adds up to 60 years in prison.
“It's horrible. Look, even Jesus in the New Testament tells us there are wolves in sheep's clothing, right,” Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith said.
Smith says he was pleased with the outcome and the victims and their families were, too.
“The reality is, with a person like this, you're never going to get what you feel like is equal to what they have done. But what you can get is to a point where you feel like that it allows the families to move on,” Smith said.
He says it was very important that justice was served.
“They were always willing to testify if needed. But number two is obviously to avoid the ordeal of their children going through a trial being cross-examined,” he said.
There were six identified victims, some of which gave victim impact statements at the hearing. One victim says he doesn’t hate Hord because that would require him to feel something. He said he feels nothing but indifference. A parent said Hord stole so many boys' innocence and used God's name to do it.
Natalie Tibbs with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Benton County says all they can hope is that anytime abuse occurs that child feels safe enough to tell someone.
“Our goal at the Children's Advocacy Center is to empower children to find their voice. And no matter how old they are, whether they're three or whether they're 16, or 18. You know, we just hope that they feel safe enough that they can share what happened and feel safe enough to talk about that and to be able to start that healing process,” Tibbs said.
Hord was also a student pastor at a church in Memphis from 2011 to 2016.
5NEWS will update this article with more information as it becomes available.
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