WIMAUMA — Detectives say a senior pastor at Beth-El Farmworker Ministry in Wimauma sexually battered a girl, now 17, multiple times over the past six years, including on Monday.
Walter Chuquimia, 59, was arrested Wednesday on three counts of sexual battery and was held without bail in the Hillsborough County jail. He admitted to having sexual intercourse with the girl on three occasions, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.
Detectives have not identified any other victims, but they urge anyone with additional information about Chuquimia to call the Sheriff's Office at (813) 247-8200.
Beth-El Farmworker Ministry, located at 18240 U.S. 301 in Wimauma, provides assistance programs for farmworkers and their families, along with weekly worship services.
Chuquimia joined the ministry in 2013 and led Spanish-language worship services on Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings, said Kathleen Dain, Beth-El's executive director. He has been on administrative leave since Monday, when the Beth-El staff first learned of the allegations against him, Dain said. He will not be permitted to perform any pastoral duties at Beth-El Farmworker Ministry for the foreseeable future, she said.
"We are just devastated by this, and for all the people affected by these actions," Dain said. "We are just in shock and just continually praying for God's direction as we take all this in and process it."
Chuquimia was not involved in the youth or children's ministries at Beth-El, and Dain said staffers are not aware of any similar instances occurring on the ministry's campus or involving anyone affiliated with the mission or its associated programs.
The ministry is conducting its own internal investigation.
Most of the Beth-El community still hadn't heard about Chuquimia's arrest by Thursday evening, Dain said, but it will be addressed during the ministry's regularly scheduled services.
Chuquimia was ordained in 1996 at Valley Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was senior pastor at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, Pa., from 1994 to 2006 and later worked as an evangelist and pastor for the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area in Minneapolis, before joining Beth-El.
Now, though, Chuquimia's ordination will have to be re-evaluated, Dain said.
"A pastor that has been charged and convicted with sexual misconduct has not only violated the principals set forth in Scripture but their ordination vows and their healthy pastoral and professional relationships, and we take that very seriously."
Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.