WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Search warrants have not yet been filed in the case against a head instructor at an after school program.
Wednesday afternoon, detectives from the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office and the Wilmington Police Department arrested 61-year-old John David Maisenhelder for taking indecent liberties with minors.
"There's a lot of conduct that falls into this category of indecent liberties such as someone exposing themselves, touching them inappropriately, things that don't go into the area of forceable rape or sexual offense," said Thom Goolsby.
Maisenhelder is the owner and head instructor at Creative After School Training (C.A.S.T.) according to the school. According to their website, Maisenhelder is a 6th degree black belt with over 30 years of experience, and has been a Baptist Pastor for over 15 years.
He is facing charges of three counts of taking indecent liberties with three different children. According to the arrest warrants, the alleged sex crimes happened in April and in June.
WECT has learned the charges he's been arrested for involve sexual gratification and contact with children under the ages of 16.
Officials say the punishment could be severe if the allegations are proven because of Maisenhelder's job instructing children.
"Someone who violates a position of trust and confidence and gains access to children and then abuses them can be punished more harshly than someone who didn't have that position when sentencing comes if it does," said District Attorney Ben David.
David said his office is working with the Wilmington Police Department and the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office to get witness statements and investigate physical evidence.
"Nothings more important than protecting our children and these allegations have to be taken seriously we're taking them very seriously," said David. "If there's people who have information they don't need to be talking about it in the neighborhoods or out on the streets. They need to tell investigators and we will be happy to follow up."
If there are any parents of previous program enrollment who have concerns regarding this investigation they are asked to contact New Hanover County Detectives at (910) 798-4260.
Maisenhelder's attorney released this statement late Thursday afternoon:
I represent John Maisenhelder in regards to the charges filed yesterday in New Hanover County. The purpose of my email is to remind you that in ANY investigation, it is important that members of the media, who report on mere allegations against innocent persons, respect the rights of all parties involved, by not allowing an investigation to become a witch hunt. Presently, John, his wife, his daughter, family and many friends are shocked over the allegations of the last 24 hours. They have fully cooperated with the authorities, and respect the investigative process, while also - unequivocally - asserting John's innocence. I, and the family, have received overwhelming support from a multitude of John's friends and supporters in this community and thank them all for their continued help and support during this difficult time. As the law allows, further comments may be forthcoming.
White & Hearne L.L.P.
Wilmington police also released a statement Thursday afternoon. This is an excerpt from that news release:
Subsequent to the arrest, detectives executed search warrants at CAST, located at 4039 Masonboro Loop Road, and the residence of Mr. Maisenhelder, located at 4741 Wedgefield Court.
With the assistance of the New Hanover County District Attorney's office calls were made to the parents of forty-two kids who are currently enrolled in programs offered by CAST. These calls served as the initial parent notification and are now being expanded to include the students of previous enrollment.
Maisenhelder was being held in the New Hanover County Detention Facility under a $1,000,000 secured bond. After a court appearance Thursday, that bond was cut in half. If he makes bond, authorities say he will be under electronic house arrest.
Maisenhelder is expected to have a court hearing Wednesday afternoon in the New Hanover County Courthouse.