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8/07/2005                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor faces sex charges


A 58-year-old local pastor is accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with a 5-year-old girl, deputies of the Logan County Sheriff's Office reported this morning.

The Rev. James Alan Hazlett, 206 N. Taylor St., West Liberty, was charged Wednesday afternoon with one count of gross sexual imposition, stemming from an incident July 9, while he served as pastor of the West Liberty United Methodist Church, 202 W. Newell St.

Detectives said the case was forwarded to them from Delaware County Children Services on Tuesday and the pastor was arrested at about 3 p.m. Wednesday at the sheriff's office.

Sgt. Jeff Cooper, lead detective at the sheriff's office, said Mr. Hazlett has cooperated during their investigation. The detective declined to comment on where the victim resides.

"Pastors are in a position of trust; they're someone everybody looks up to and goes to with their problems," he said. "I would say he violated that position of trust."

The Rev. Randy Stearns, superintendent of the United Methodist District Office in Springfield, said Mr. Hazlett has been removed from his duties at the church until further notice.

"Obviously we're concerned for him and his family," he said. "At this point, we're not jumping to any conclusions. These are serious charges. We've removed Jim from his duties at the West Liberty United Methodist Church until further notice, pending an investigation, and we're asking for prayers for the family, the congregation and all those involved."

Mr. Hazlett has been pastor in West Liberty since July 2004, coming from Oak Harbor United Methodist Church near Toledo, where he had served since 2002, a secretary at the United Methodist Conference Center in Worthington said this morning.

The Rev. Stearns did not know exactly how long Mr. Hazlett has been an ordained minister, but he has been in the ministry more than 30 years, the superintendent said.

Calls to the United Methodist Conference Center in Worthington were not returned this morning.

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