Former Baxter youth pastor faces sexual assault charges
Victim says “The last 33 years of my life were hell and I buried it. They had me so convinced it was my fault. How could I desecrate the name of this great man? For years I lived in fear.”
A former youth pastor at First Baptist Church faces criminal charges from an alleged sexual assault of a student at Lake Region Christian School in Baxter more than 30 years ago.
Todd Travis Hogue, 59, was charged Jan. 27 and summoned to appear in Crow Wing County District Court on two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Hogue currently serves as a pastor at Community Baptist Church in Curwensville, Pennsylvania. He has been a pastor at the church since May 2003, according to the church website.
Hogue’s first court appearance is scheduled at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 26 before Judge Erik J. Askegaard. The felony charges filed against Hogue, who was 27 at the time of the offense, state he used force and his position of authority to commit the offenses.
Hogue could not be reached for comment.
The victim, who now lives in Texas and whose family continues to live in the Brainerd lakes area, contacted Lt. Chad Kleffman of the Brainerd Police Department Dec. 3, 2018, to file a complaint against Hogue.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Hogue, the victim told Kleffman she was a senior at Lake Region Christian School in 1987-88 and Hogue was a youth pastor. During her senior year, she was 17 when Hogue sexually assaulted her by first touching her and groping her sexually. She reported the assault to First Baptist Church but, according to the victim, the church did not believe her. The victim said once Hogue realized no one believed her, he continued the sexual assaults further, including sexual intercourse, the complaint stated. She said the sexual assaults were never reported to law enforcement or social services.
The victim specifically recalled an incident she said occurred in a sound room overlooking the school auditorium. Hogue cornered her in the closet in the sound room and raped her. That assault took place during the fall of her senior year in high school, prior to her 18th birthday.
The victim was one of the school basketball team statisticians and Hogue was the basketball coach. On several other occasions, while she was at basketball events at night, Hogue sexually assaulted her, the victim said. However, these incidents took place after she turned 18.
During the course of the investigation, Kleffman conducted numerous interviews of people who attended and worked at the church and school during the time in question. Many of those interviewed remembered Hogue frequently engaging in flirtatious and inappropriate behavior with some of the female students and was known to snap their bra straps, the complaint stated.
Also reported by more than one witness was a meeting by the Board of Deacons regarding allegations made by the victim that Hogue sexually assaulted her. Additionally, another former student reported Hogue sexually abused her, specifically that he touched her over the clothing and got her blouse off, but did not rape her.
Kleffman spoke with Hogue by telephone on a number of occasions. Hogue admitted he worked at First Baptist Church during the time in question and he remembered the victim. Hogue did not admit nor specifically deny the allegations, the complaint stated. Hogue stated he did remember appearing before the Deacon Board regarding an allegation that he "hugged" her.
Victim speaks out
“They didn’t believe me,” the victim said in a telephone interview Monday, recalling when she told the principal and the senior pastor at the time of the sexual assaults against her during her senior year.
It is the Dispatch’s policy to not name victims of sexual assault unless they agree to be identified.
The victim said Hogue’s inappropriate behavior with girls was seen by others at the school and church, including a teacher and a parent, who talked with the administration at the time, but “nobody listened and ... it was protected, to protect the institution at all costs,” she said.
“Nothing happened to him and I was 100% convinced it was my fault,” she said. “I was blamed because I flirted with him and was leading him on. I absolutely believed it because I was a 17-year-old girl, and he was a cute teacher. And all the girls had crushes on him. And he was flirting with me. So, you know, I felt honored. And then when all of this happened, I didn't feel so honored anymore.
“The last 33 years of my life were hell and I buried it. They had me so convinced it was my fault. How could I desecrate the name of this great man? For years I lived in fear.”
The victim said the church and school had such a hold on her that when her son died when she was 24 years old she felt it was God’s punishment. She said it wasn’t until she went to therapy and learned she had post-traumatic stress disorder that she realized it wasn’t her fault.
With encouragement from the #MeToo movement, the woman said she is coming forward now to help find closure and as inspiration for other potential victims.
“This has opened up a lot of ugly and nasty wounds,” she said. “But it's also given me a chance to heal. And if there are other girls out there, they deserve that, too, and that's why I did it.”
The victim said the current administration and staff at First Baptist Church and Lake Region Christian School are not at fault and she does not blame them as they were not at the school and church during the time of the allegations. She said she would be proud of being associated with the school and church now.
Lake Region Christian School Principal Steve Ogren declined to comment Tuesday. The school and First Baptist did release a statement, written by Ogren and Senior Pastor David Grotzke, that was being sent to church families.
“We have been notified that criminal charges have been brought against someone who last worked for our church and school more than 30 years ago,” the statement read. “We have been and will continue to fully cooperate with local authorities in this matter. The safety of the students in our care and the staff who work here continues to be a top priority. More information will be shared at the proper time.”
Anyone with information on the case or any potential victims who want to come forward may contact Kleffman at the Brainerd Police Department at 218-829-2805.
JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5851. Follow me at twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.