HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A former youth minister will spend the next 25 years in prison for molesting a 15-year-old girl who attended the church where he was a youth leader.
District Attorney Joel Smith said David Matthew Thorne, 36, will have to serve his entire sentence without the possibility of early release. Thorne pleaded guilty to sexual battery of a juvenile and touching a child for lustful purposes in August.
Thorne was a youth minister at Goodyear Baptist Church in Picayune, according to multiple sources.
"The defendant was in a place of leadership, charged with the responsibility to minister to the victim. Unfortunately, he chose to betray her trust and that of her family and the church for his own sexual desires," said Smith.
According to Smith, the investigation was launched in March 2016 after the girl told her mother about sexual contact with Thorne, who was 35 at the time. The case was investigated by the Hancock County Sheriff's Department.
Investigators said Thorne sexually assaulted the girl twice in a church van after church youth events.
"Investigators learned that two incidents occurred in January and February after church youth events, in the church van, near the child's home in Hancock County," said Assistant District Attorney Chris Daniel. "The investigation revealed that the minister and child had been using the popular application, Kik Messenger to privately communicate and send photos prior to and at the time of the incidents."
During last month's plea hearing, Smith said Thorne apologized for his crimes and said he received counseling for sexual addiction after his arrest. Judge Lisa Dodson admonished Thorne for molesting the teen while he was in a position of trust.
"You were in a position of trust for all of these young people in the youth group and you chose to molest this girl. Then, you chose to send these pictures, and then there was a second occasion," said Dodson.
Smith said Thorne is facing other related charges that are pending trial in Pearl River County.