Man accused of inappropriately touching teen at local church

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BARTLETT, Tenn. -- A man is behind bars accused of inappropriately touching a teenager in a Bartlett church.

Robert Stephen Austin was charged with sexual battery.

A 17-year-old girl claimed a 67-year-old man inappropriately touched her.

She told police she was with her youth group inside the gym at Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett on April 26. She said he then groped her for a couple seconds and walked away.

Police said another teen witnessed what happened.

Police also spoke to the head of security at the church. Court records state the church received several complaints about Austin's behavior with women and children at the church.

Security reportedly sent police several emails with those complaints dating back to 2015.

Austin told detectives he doesn't remember touching anyone inappropriately and went on to tell police, "he pokes girls in their rib cage as a joke, but would never jeopardize his family's standing in the church."

No one answered the door when we stopped by Austin's address.

"Great neighbor, always talking," said Glenn Carpenter.

He has known Austin for nearly 20 years and said he never saw any red flags.

"We will have to wait to see what happens," he said. "You never know what someone does, but I don't think you can say he's guilty until he's guilty."

A spokesperson with the church told us they have no comment, because this is an ongoing investigation. He did stress Austin never served a leadership role.


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