A former youth pastor known for operating a popular haunted house was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor in the mid-2000s, Colorado Springs police announced Tuesday.
Police arrested 49-year-old Vincent Stites on suspicion of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, officers said.
Detectives allege Stites, a former youth pastor at Friendship Assembly of God Church in Colorado Springs and an owner of Hellscream Entertainment in Colorado Springs, was involved in a sexual relationship with an underage female parishioner who was a member of his youth group in the mid-2000s.
The lead pastor for Friendship Assembly of God Church, Bradley Williamson, disputed that Stites was a youth pastor for the church. According to Williamson, Stites' ex-wife was a children's pastor and Stites assisted her with planning and executing church functions, such as carnivals and holiday events.
Court records show that Stites' marriage was dissolved in 2008.
Colorado Springs police spokesman Lt. James Sokolik said that while Stites may not have been a paid staff member, he performed the duties of a youth pastor and was recognized as such by parishioners.
"He acted in the capacity of a youth or children’s pastor," Sokolik said in a statement. "Whether he was financially compensated is not material for the charge."
All staff that interact with children receive "rigorous background checks," under church policy, Williamson said.
"I was deeply surprised," Williamson said about the arrest.
Williamson also said the victim was Stites' family friend and that she did not participate in the children's programming Stites helped run.
In 2009 Stites opened Hellscream Haunted House in Colorado Springs.
Calling itself "the scariest and most feared haunted house" in the city, HellScream has multiple stories and offers several attractions, including haunted mines, according to its website.
It regularly garners media attention, particularly around Halloween. Stites registered the HellScream trade name in April 2015, Colorado Secretary of State records show.
Haunted houses do not fall under the supervision of the state Department of Regulatory Agencies, said spokeswoman Jill Sarmo.
"I'm not aware of any formal regulation at the state level," Sarmo said. " I always just point folks to the BBBs and other consumer groups who may have received complaints."
Police asked anyone with information about the investigation, or who may have been a victim of Stites to call the Colorado Springs Police Department at 719-444-7000, and reference call screen number 20404547 when providing information.
Lance Benzel and O'Dell Isaac contributed to this report.