Fugitive Florida pastor arrested in Texas after fleeing sexual battery, molestation charges

Monte Lavelle Chitty, 62, is senior pastor of First Baptist Marathon in Florida.
Monte Lavelle Chitty, 62, is senior pastor of First Baptist Marathon in Florida. | YouTube/First Baptist Church; Monroe County Sheriff

A Florida pastor charged with sexually assaulting an intoxicated teenager has been arrested in Texas after a prosecutor suspected he fled the Sunshine State. 

The Monroe County Florida Sheriff's Office announced Friday that Monte Lavelle Chitty was arrested around 5 p.m. in Woodville, Texas, after he reportedly approached a Texas church group that serves the homeless and a church member contracted authorities. 

The Woodville Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service were "instrumental in apprehending Chitty," the Monroe County Sheriff's Office said in a statement

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Chitty, who served as leader of First Baptist of Marathon and is a former cop from Alaska, faces charges of sexual battery, lewd and lascivious molestation and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He is being held on a $1.3 million bond.

Allegations against Chitty were first reported to police in early March by an anonymous caller who overheard a teenager telling an adult that she had been raped. As the investigation launched, police officers said they received a call from Chitty saying he "was about to be accused of something and he wanted to get ahead of it."

"He said a young girl at his church had been drinking and had passed out on a couch in the library of the church," the sheriff's office reported in a March 4 statement. "He said he helped her to lie down on the couch but did not touch her after that."

After investigators contacted the alleged victim, she told them that Chitty gave her alcohol, which she believed was "spiked."

"She said she immediately began to feel weak and lost consciousness. She said when she woke up, she found Chitty sexually molesting her," the sheriff's office stated. 

Authorities say they later found text messages between the teenager and the pastor where he "made reference to having sexual relations with the girl while she was impaired."

Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward told Local 10 News on Monday that they have reason to believe that Chitty left the state after being released on a $75,000 bond. The outlet noted that the lead detective said during a court hearing that Chitty has lived in 25 states and may have places to hide out.

According to a report once published on the website of the Florida Baptist Convention, Chitty and his wife served in ministry for a decade in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska and several years in Texas and Nevada.

Chitty recently launched a Sunday morning dockside service in Boot Key Harbor for boaters who live on the water.

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