BENTONVILLE -- Police suspect a former youth minister may have had inappropriate contact with up to 30 boys, according to two Bentonville detectives.
The detectives testified Friday at a bond hearing for Keenan Hord.
Hord, 32, of Centerton was arrested Wednesday in connection with sexual assault, possessing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child and sexual indecency with a minor. He worked for First Baptist Church in Bentonville.
Prosecutors have not filed formal charges against him.
Hord has served on the staffs of at least two Southern Baptist churches, most recently First Baptist Bentonville, where he joined the staff in 2016 and became student pastor in 2018, according to Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. The church said in a statement Friday that the allegations came after Hord's employment there had ended, according to Baptist Press.
"We have been devastated to learn that a former employee of our church has been credibly accused of abusing adolescents during his tenure at our church," First Baptist Bentonville said in a statement to Baptist Press. "While these accusations did not come to light until after his employment ended, when we learned of them we immediately contacted our local authorities, made a report to the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline, and continue to fully support the ongoing law enforcement investigation."
Hord also served on staff at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., from 2011-2016. He served first as an intern, then became student pastor of Bellevue's Arlington, Tenn., campus in 2014, according to Baptist Press.
Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green presided Friday over Hord's bond hearing. She set Hord's bond at $500,000 cash only.
Bentonville police received a tip through the Arkansas State Police child abuse hotline Aug. 19, according to a press release from the Bentonville Police Department.
Bentonville detective James Boothman testified police searched Hord's residence Aug. 24 to seize electronic devices. Boothman said Hord's wife later notified police her husband had left the residence and had not returned.
Police notified the U.S. Marshals Service that Hord was missing, and he was taken into custody Wednesday after police received a call he was at Walmart in Fayetteville and purchased a Tracfone, Boothman said.
Boothman said police had spoken to six victims and identified up to 30 possible victims with an examination of Hord's cellphone.
Bentonville police Sgt. Josh Woodhams testified he examined a cellphone belonging to one of the boys that revealed a romantic and sexual relationship between Hord and the boy. He said there were 5,000 conversations on the phone between Hord and the boy.
Woodhams said police located a half million text messages on the phone. As many as 30 boys had conversations with Hord, Woodhams said.
Several videos and images were on Hord's phone; one was a video taken of a boy in a restroom stall, Woodhams said.
Woodhams said all the communications and images involved juvenile males.
Joshua Robinson, deputy prosecutor, requested Hord's bond be set at $500,000 cash only.
Nathan Smith, Benton County prosecuting attorney, urged the judge to follow the recommendation. He said there's a strong case against Hord and the likelihood of his conviction is strong. Smith said the only logical conclusion is Hord was evading law enforcement when he left his home. Smith described Hord as a flight risk.
Ryan Jewell, Hord's attorney, urged the judge to set a corporate surety bond for his client.
Jewell said his client has lived in the state for several years and has no criminal history. He told the judge the purpose of bond is to make sure individuals show up in court and bond should not be used as a punishment.
The judge found there was probable cause to detain Hord on the charges. Hord must pay a half-million dollars in cash in order to be released from custody.
Green also ordered Hord to turn over his passport to the Benton County Circuit Clerk's Office and not to have contact with any minors.
Hord's arraignment is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Oct. 3 in Green's courtroom.