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Manchester church pastor charged with sex crimes involving minor

By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 23. 2016 1:11PM

STEPHEN JESMER 



MANCHESTER — The former pastor of the Dialogue Church has been charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old member of the church when he led it.

Steven Jesmer, 37, turned himself over to Manchester police Monday night after being told of warrants for his arrest. He appeared in Manchester District Court on Tuesday; his bail was set at $100,000.

According to a police affidavit, Jesmer took the 13-year-old to his church office on June 8, where he allegedly groped and then sexually assaulted her, at times continuing to press her to perform sex acts despite her refusals.

The girl “repeatedly told Jesmer no to his request but stated that she was afraid and thought that she had made Jesmer mad and ultimately agreed to his request,” court paperwork reads.

No one answered the door at Jesmer’s home at 183 Roysan St., a quiet neighborhood of ranch homes and duplexes near Memorial High School. A portable basketball hoop was in the driveway, and a trampoline in the back yard.

Neighbors said the family consists of Jesmer, his wife and two grade-school-age girls.

The Dialogue Church is located at 516 Pine St. at the site of the former St. George Catholic Church, on the northern edge of downtown Manchester.

It has an active social media component, with video and text posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Its website lists no denomination; Sunday services draw “skeptics, new believers, and those who are already on the journey with Jesus.”

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, current pastor Anthony Milas acknowledged the media coverage of Jesmer’s arrest. He listed five steps for church members to follow, including letting the judicial system do its job, praying, and staying away from gossip.

“As a church family we are committed to being a church that glorifies God and adds value to our surrounding community,” Milas wrote.

It’s unclear when Jesmer left the church, but church officials earlier this month told Manchester police that Jesmer had resigned for “moral failure.” According to a Facebook post, Milas was named the new pastor around June 24.

On that day, Manchester police learned about a report that Milas made to state child protection officials about Jesmer.

In an initial police interview on July 5, the victim denied that anything happened. But during a summer camp, the girl broke down and disclosed the assaults to another pastor, Rory Lawrence, and his wife, Jenni Lawrence.

On Aug. 3, the girl had another interview at the Child Advocacy Center and gave detailed accounts of the assaults.

Jesmer also faces a felony witness-tampering charge after he allegedly urged the girl not to tell anyone because he would lose his job and family.

In police interviews, the Lawrences confirmed what the girl told them about the assaults.

Jesmer’s wife, Dawn Jesmer, told police that her husband told her about inappropriate, skin-to-skin contact with the girl. Dawn Jesmer had her attorney file a report with the state Division of Children, Youth and Families, the affidavit said.

Police said The Dialogue Church staff members have been highly cooperative.

Detectives are following up on the case. Anyone with additional information about Jesmer should contact the police Juvenile Investigative Unit at 792-5551.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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