Bethany church hit by 2nd sex scandal

BETHANY - In the second sex scandal to hit the First Church of Christ, Congregational this year, a former church official was recently arrested on charges that he attempted to entice a minor to have sex with him.

Curtis B. Hayes of 118 Litchfield Turnpike surrendered to police last Thursday after a warrant was issued charging him with risk of injury to a minor, enticing a minor and second-degree harassment, police and town officials said. His age was not available.

That warrant was issued after the minor's parents approached police with e-mails and voice mails sent over several weeks to their daughter, First Selectwoman Derryln Gorski said.

Hayes was the town's fire marshal until Gorski fired him in August when she became aware of the details of the case.

It is unclear where Hayes and the girl, whose age and identity are being withheld by police, met. But the girl did attend the First Church of Christ, Congregational, where Hayes was a church commissioner for at least six years, and chairman of the mission and stewardship committee, town and church officials confirmed. He has since resigned from those posts and now attends a different church, the Rev. Louise B. Higginbotham, interim pastor of the church, said.

Hayes was fired as fire marshal about a year after he took the job. State police officers played voice mails and showed Gorski e-mails that police said were sent by Hayes to the girl. Many of the e-mails were sent from his town-issued laptop computer, which was seized by police.

Gorski said she was shocked by the messages and that they were "directed at a female minor and were very inappropriate."

At least one voic email was also apparently left during school hours and began with, "I know you are in class right now," Gorski said. The messages were sent over a period of weeks and started out as what appeared to be a "mentor type" relationship, but later became inappropriate, Gorski added.

"Part of the fire marshal's job is to go into schools to conduct fire prevention programs," Gorski said. "Based on (the e-mails and voice mails) I knew it would be inappropriate for this man to continue in that role."

"At the time I terminated him, I did not know if the e-mail and voice mails could be prosecutable. But based on what I heard and read, this individual should not be a representative of the town going into school teaching children, Gorski said"

Hayes, who is free on $1,000 bail, did not return a call seeking comment. He is scheduled to appear Jan. 10 in Superior Court in New Haven.

In August, the former pastor of the First Church of Christ, Congregational, Stephen J. Wasko of Milford, resigned amid allegations he sexually assaulted a minor. Wasko, 54, was arrested and is free on $100,000 bail while he awaits his next court date, also Jan. 10 in New Haven.

Wasko has pleaded not guilty to two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault and has yet to enter a plea to the more serious risk of injury to a minor charge, according to court records.

Higginbotham said the two incidents, while both involving adult church officials and minors who attend the church, are not related.

"These situations, while they are not linked, have caused great sadness and difficulty in the congregation and that is why I am here," Higginbotham said. "I'm here to care for them in this really difficult situation.

"The church was devastated and surprised by both of these revelations and I'm helping them deal with the fallout from that. This is a warm and healthy congregation and they are shocked," she said.

Higginbotham said church officials found out about the incident when police began their investigation this summer.

State police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance wouldn't reveal details about the case except that a lengthy investigation headed by Trooper Scott Pardales led to the arrest of Hayes. "For now, it's appropriate to leave it as general as possible given the nature of the case and to allow it to take on a life of its own when the case is tried in court," Vance said.