BELLINGHAM, Wash. - A North Sound pastor is suspected of preying on a 12-year-old girl in abuse that continued for years, eventually having sex with her and promising to marry her.
The house next door to Bellingham Baptist Church where police believe 37-year-old Christopher Trent lived with his wife and seven children appeared vacant Wednesday.
“He's packing a U-Haul and packing a transport van with all of their gear and it appears they're going to head out, and so we made the contact with him and learned they were planning to leave the state," explained Lt. Bob Vander Yacht.
Instead, Trent is in the Whatcom County Jail accused of grooming one of his church girls for sex -- police say over a period of more than two years, police say.
Just last month he posted on social media about hosting a Vacation Bible School for 120 kids at the same church where police say he sexually abused the girl.
Vander Yacht says it started with rides home from church; Trent's victim was 12 1/2 at the time. She told police it then progressed to hugs, kisses, nude pictures via text and sex -- she says at least 100 times.
"’I know when you're 18 I want to marry you,’” Vander Yacht repeated what Trent allegedly said to the girl. “This is just grooming behavior."
We reached out to members of the church Wednesday and the head pastor.
None responded, but Vander Yacht says Bellingham Baptist is a well-established congregation and it was someone with the church who called police.
Prior to his position in Bellingham, Trent worked at a church in Oklahoma. Bellingham police are contacting police there to find out if there are any additional victims.
Trent will be arraigned on July 29 in Whatcom County Court.
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