Pastor of Mesquite church charged with failing to report sexual assaults

Image 1 of 2

The lead pastor of a Mesquite church was arrested in connection with a sex assault investigation involving two church employees.

Robert Ross, 70, is the lead pastor at Open Door Baptist Church. Mesquite police say he knew of at least one of the alleged assaults of repeated sexual encounters between a youth church leader and a teen for weeks, but he never reported it.

The church website has nothing to indicate there were previously scheduled events there Tuesday night. Around 6:30 p.m., there were a number of vehicles pull in the parking lot and several men entered the building. But so far, whatever is being said is being said behind closed doors.

All efforts to contact church leaders or members at Open Door Baptist Church have been firmly rebuffed.

Mesquite Police arrested Ross Tuesday morning and charged him with knowingly failing to make a required child abuse report. It was on the heels of the earlier arrests of a father and son.

Steven Winn, 33, was a volunteer youth church leader. He was arrested on three counts of sexual assault of a child. His father, 65-year-old Larry Winn, was the church's bus minister and is also charged with sexual assault of a child.

Mesquite police say Steven had multiple sexual encounters with a girl for more than a year that started when she was 15. They say Larry forcibly raped another teenaged girl.

RELATED: Mesquite father, son both accused of child sex assault

Repeated calls to the church went unreturned. No one answered at Ross' home hours after he bonded out of jail.

After the first arrest, Ross emailed FOX 4 to dispute Mesquite police’s assertions that Steven was Open Door Baptist's Associate Youth Pastor. "Steven Winn was a non-employee volunteer" he asserted in a Feb. 26 email. "I relayed this same information to the investigators."

Police now allege that Ross knew of Steven Winn's alleged child sexual assaults on February 1, but did not inform them. Instead, they say, another person came forward on February 18 with information that Ross withheld.

Toby Shook is a former prosecutor with no involvement in these cases. He says 'required to report’ legislation has been expanded in recent years.

"In the criminal law, we don't see the police use that offense a lot. But we're starting to see it charged more often,” Shook said. “If you know about it, you have to report it. You're under a duty.  If you have a special duty — teacher, guardian or daycare worker — you may be held to a felony. But all citizens are required to report these things if they know about them."

Ross is charged with a class A misdemeanor. It carries a potential sentence of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.