Former youth pastor pleads guilty to sex crime

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - David Dycus

MARSHALL COUNTY, KY.---Is the punishment too much or not enough? That depends on who you ask.
What would you want to happen after learning your child's youth pastor was a child predator?
Robert Byars will have to serve at least half of the eight-year prison sentence he received Wednesday.

He's the former youth minister at Walnut Street Baptist in Benton.
Byar's will also be added to the sex offender registry.
The Walnut Street Pastor spoke on the family's behalf.  He said he thought of Robert Byars as a son.     He said the victim's family and the entire church is ready to move on.
The victim is undergoing counseling. The family's pastor says he's glad Byars will be forced to get the help he needs while serving his sentence.

One word, 'guilty,' equals an eight-year sentence for a man once called pastor.

Wednesday, the prosecution considered him a predator.

Prosecutor Mark Blankenship said he's satisfied with the plea deal reached just before the trial.

"He's going to get out of prison in about four or five years, then he's going to be closely monitored and going to be on the registry," Blankenship said.

He'll be listed on the registry for 20 years and during that time he's not allowed to contact the victim or her family.

Robert's mother Linda told Local 6 she doesn't think her son wants to contact the victim.

"Wants to put his family back together, he loves his family and he's sorry for what he did," Linda said.

The two only got to talk for a minute or so, and got in a quick hug-that brought tears to Linda's eyes.

'We'll just leave it to the Lord,' Linda said.

Walnut Street Baptist Pastor, Joel Frizzell said he'll visit Byars while he's in prison, but only if he tells the truth.
Something Frizzell said Byars hadn't been doing.

"We trusted him, 150 percent and he broke that trust," Frizzell said.

When formally sentenced next month-Byars will be forced to tell the truth; admit and apologize, per the plea deal.

"The man needs to stand there and man up and admit it and say its wrong," Blankenship said.

The prosecutor said if that apology isn't satisfactory the judge can go back and add more time to Byar's sentence.

Byars will receive a mandatory sexual treatment program that's lasts about four years. That's why the prosecution is confident Byars will spend at least that much time in the penitentiary.
    
Byars' formal sentencing will take place on December 16Th at 8:30 A.M. at the Marshall County Judicial Center.

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