Youth minister accused of child solicitation

MARENGO – A Marengo youth minister was arrested Tuesday on charges of soliciting a child for sex acts after an undercover online investigation in Rock Island.

Investigators with the Illinois Attorney General’s office arrested Barry Caudle, 39, Tuesday morning at Marengo First Assembly of God, 22817 W. Grant Highway, where Caudle served as a youth minister.

Wade Heimer, lead pastor at Marengo First Assembly of God, said the church was made aware of the arrest and will “cooperate fully” with the investigation. He said he and the church were “stunned” by the allegations and encouraged the community to contact local authorities if they have relevant information. He declined to comment further or respond to questions about Caudle’s background.

The case against Caudle began about three months ago with the Rock Island police department’s undercover investigation. Investigators said Caudle solicited an officer posing online as a 14-year-old girl for sex acts, believing she was an underage girl. About a month ago, the case was handed over to Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office to investigate, which led to Tuesday’s arrest.

Caudle, who lives with his wife in Marengo, was charged in Rock Island County with three counts of indecent solicitation of a child, a Class 3 felony punishable by two to five years in the Illinois Department of Corrections; and one count each of grooming and unlawful luring of a minor, Class 4 felonies each punishable by one to three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Bond for Caudle was set at $150,000. He was taken into custody by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office.

There was no church service when investigators arrived to for the arrest, said Maura Possley, deputy press secretary for Madigan’s office.

Madigan’s office, with a grant from the Department of Justice, administers the Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, which investigates child exploitation crimes and trains law enforcement. The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s and Sheriff’s Offices, the Rock Island Police Department and the Rock Island County State’s Attorney’s Office assisted in the arrest.

Police departments throughout the state have special agents, deputized by the FBI, who pose online as minors to investigate child exploitation crimes.

“Some of the most heinous crimes against children start online,” Madigan said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “Child predators hide behind anonymous user names in chat rooms and instant messages to make their first contact with potential victims. We need to shut these crimes down at the source, finding where sex offenders lurk online before they strike.”

Caudle, who is in custody at the McHenry County Jail, was expected to be transported later this month to Rock Island County, where the charges were filed.

On an online journal, Caudle wrote “I have been in ministry for 17 years and I love kids and love to serve, and just love people.” And according to his Facebook homepage, Caudle began serving as a youth minister at Marengo First Assembly of God since November 2010. Before that, he served as a children’s pastor at Harvest Chapel in Sandwich, from February 2004 to October 2010.

Given his occupation involving youths, more investigation could be pending.

The biggest concern for the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office was whether there were local victims or community members with information for further investigations into Caudle, Undersheriff Andy Zinke said.

“We ask them to come forward,” Zinke said. “Our concern is for the community.”

People with any information into Caudle should call the sheriff’s office at 815-338-2144.

• Reporter Joe Bustos contributed to this story.

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