A Lake County church youth minister was in jail Tuesday, accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl from his youth group, Lake County sheriff's officials reported.

Christopher Andrew Puryear, 23, of Kelseyville was arrested on suspicion of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a child, forced oral copulation with a child, criminal threats and annoying a child under 18. He was booked into the Lake County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail.

In a statement, Sheriff's Capt. James Bauman said the arrest resulted from an alleged assault involving the girl at a Finley church in late November.

Sheriff's deputies launched their investigation Friday night after two church leaders from the Gateway Ministries church reported that Puryear was having inappropriate relations with at least one youth group teen, Bauman said.

The church leaders indicated Puryear had been spending a great deal of time with teen girls in the youth group, as well as sending them text messages.

During the investigation, deputies learned of the alleged assault Nov. 25 at a church function. Puryear reportedly asked the 14-year-old girl outside to talk and then started physical and sexual advances toward her, Bauman said.

The youth minister stopped when interrupted by someone coming outside the church, Bauman said.

Officers interviewed the girl Saturday and arrested Puryear on Saturday night at the church.

Detectives are seeking any other possible victims.

Gateway Ministries in Finley was formerly known as Big Valley Community Church.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

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