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Helena-West Helena pastor charged with rape, sexual grooming of 15-year-old

HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. -- Helena-West Helena police have arrested a pastor for allegations involving the rape of a 15-year-old church member.

Pastor Bishop Michael Jenkins is charged with rape and sexual grooming of a minor, police said.

Just after 1 p.m., police and FBI agents went to Jenkins' home on South 7th Street.

He works at the Church of the Living God.

"The 15-year-old said that she was actually raped by this local pastor inside of the trailer," said HWHPD Chief Virgil Green.

Police say that trailer was parked right in front of the pastor's house.

It's a home he shares with his wife, but also where he gets visits from teenagers.

"Apparently a group of kids would play basketball at this particular pastor's house, so it wasn't uncommon for other local juveniles to be at this pastors house," said the chief.

Police say the rape was reported two weeks ago.

According to court documents, there was an ongoing inappropriate relationship between Jenkins and the victim.

An investigation revealed Jenkins gave money to the victim for various things on several occasions.

He also asked for and received a nude photo from the victim, police said.

They sent the pastor's trailer to a crime lab in Little Rock to gather DNA evidence, along with the victim's and pastor's cellphones.

"There's been so much speculation in the community about this particular incident and we want the public to know that this is in fact under investigation," said the chief.

Neighbors said the investigation's troubling, but not surprising for their small city.

"What I see going on in the community, it doesn't surprise me at all and you know, you got a lot of good people here, but you got a lot of chaos here also," said Willis Lee who lives near the church.

Lee said regardless of what comes out of this investigation, he's happy to see the police chief is taking the allegations seriously.

"You'd be surprised how many people would stand up in the community if they felt they would be protected," said Lee.

Police say the pastor denied having any sexual involvement with the teenager.

They expect DNA evidence to be back within the next week.