Youth pastor charged with sexually assaulting minor; wife says he's 'absolutely innocent'

Unsplash/Michael Förtsch
Unsplash/Michael Förtsch

Family members of a former California youth pastor facing multiple sex crime charges related to the alleged yearslong assault of a minor beginning when she was 8 claim that he is innocent.

Youth Pastor Brett Bymaster, formerly of San Jose's The River Church Community until his departure in 2019, was arrested on April 11 and faces six charges of felony sex abuse. He remained behind bars until Friday after a judge reportedly allowed him to post bail at a reduced amount. 

According to court documents, Bymaster is charged with six counts of a lewd or lascivious act on a child by force, violence, duress menace and fear. The acts involve a child as young as 8 during his time at The River Church, according to prosecuting charges cited by San Jose Spotlight

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Bymaster's wife, Angela, told ABC 7 News that she believes the allegations against her husband are false.

"Brett is a kind and honest man who has dedicated his life to helping others," she was quoted as saying. "This outrageous accusation against my husband are [patently] false. He is absolutely innocent. I have faith that the truth will ultimately prevail," Angela Bymaster said. 

Matthew Gatkuch, who was born in Sudan and adopted by the pastor 16 years ago, also defended him, telling the local television news outlet that individuals "are lying to ruin his career because he is winning and he is a Christian guy."

"They're having their own company right now and people getting mad at them because they are doing their own good for the community," Gatkuch said. 

Bymaster's arrest was announced on Monday. The San Jose Police Department said in a statement that the charges stemmed from an investigation begun in January. 

"During the course of the investigation, an adult female survivor disclosed that an adult male suspect sexually assaulted her multiple times between 2014 and 2018 when she was a minor," the police statement reads.

"Detectives identified the suspect as Brett Bymaster. Suspect Bymaster was a youth pastor at the River Church Community during the time of the incident. He was also volunteering at afterschool programs outside of the church."

The church announced the launch of a third-party investigation by a sexual abuse investigator in January 2024, which prompted the police investigation, River Church's Interim Board Chair Cameron Ashizawa previously told San Jose Spotlight. The church's third-party investigation continues. 

"We are deeply saddened by these developments and continue to express our concerns, prayers, and support for the young people who have bravely raised their voices, for all victims of abuse, and for our entire church community during these distressing times," the church shared in a statement with media outlets.

"Our congregational leaders were contacted by the San Jose Police Department soon after the latest investigation launched. We have been fully cooperative. Our previous employment reviews identified performance deficiencies leading to Mr. Bymaster's departure in 2019. The subsequent 2021 pastoral inquiry further resulted in numerous substantive findings of inappropriate and unprofessional conduct by Mr. Bymaster."

Nicole VanDyke is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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