Church youth leader arrested Tuesday in connection with the rape of a minor girl
A church youth leader arrested Tuesday in connection with the rape of a minor girl was also a licensed foster parent, officials confirmed Friday.
Joseph Niemeyer, 54, worked with youth at the New Banklick Baptist Church in Walton. He was also a resource for Benchmark Family Services, a foster care service, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
A statement from the agency said it was fully cooperating with the investigation.
“We did all required criminal background checks as well as the required child abuse and neglect checks for the foster home,” the statement said. “Our agency has completed all requirements associated with the foster home’s initial certification and annual re-certification. We are deeply saddened by this tragic news.”
Benchmark Family Service and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services have not disclosed whether Niemeyer was taking care of any foster children at the time of his arrest.
Niemeyer turned himself in to the Independence Police Department, where he was arrested Monday. He is facing first-degree sexual abuse, rape and sodomy charges, all against a girl younger than 12, police said.
Capt. Mike Thatcher could not confirm whether there are multiple victims, and said the investigation into the abuse is ongoing. He said several other possible witnesses and possible victims need to be interviewed.
Niemeyer and his wife, Becky, are listed as youth ministers on the church’s website, but pastor Tim Cochran said Becky Niemeyer actually leads the youth program.
Joseph Niemeyer will not be allowed to continue leading youth services at the church if he is released from jail, Cochran said.
Cochran has known Joseph Niemeyer for five years and considered him a friend. The two traveled to church retreats and conferences together. He was sickened at the news of Niemeyer’s arrest.
“Our church, we are all just sick about what has happened,” Cochran said. “He was a good friend of mine. Never in a million years would I have thought he would do anything like this.”
Kenton County Prosecutor Rob Sanders said investigators would be checking on any children Niemeyer had contact with.
Sanders went on to explain “education and reporting methods have improved.” Programs, including those in schools, are teaching kids about what is proper contact and what isn’t. This has resulted in more cases involving sexual abuse, he said.
“I see cases like this every week in my office,” Sanders said.
Niemeyer is being held at the Kenton County Detention Center on a $50,000 bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
By Rebecca Butts