Robert Shiflet, a former youth pastor at Denton Bible Church in Texas who was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison in June 2021 for child sex trafficking charges, is set to be released next month but will spend the rest of his life under federal supervision.
Shiflet, 51, whose pending release was highlighted by Fox 4, was sentenced in June 2021, on charges of sexually abusing 14 young girls placed under his pastoral care 20 years earlier. The sentence was made after Shiflet made a plea deal which U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky lamented.
"You are a terrible person," Rudofsky told the former youth pastor at the time, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. "I don't believe that you are sorry in the slightest. I don't believe you have rehabilitated yourself. I believe you haven't been caught again but I don't believe you have rehabilitated yourself.”
Rudofsky explained that if he had his way Shiflet would be in prison for decades after a trial.
"I don't think you are a good person and I don't think you stand a chance of becoming a good person," he told Shiflet during his sentencing. "If it was up to me and you had been found guilty after a trial, I would have sent you away for 25 years."
Last year, Denton Bible Church’s 15-member, all-male elder board told the congregation after an investigation that they failed to prevent Shiflet’s abuse of the young girls in the church because they didn't involve women leaders when evaluating abuse allegations. They also admitted to failing to provide adequate care for the victims.
"Our church culture lacked involvement of women in decision-making processes related to the abuse of these girls. Further, in almost all meetings with the victims, no women were present, which was inappropriate," board chair Curtis Elder and Senior Pastor Tommy Nelson said in a letter to the congregation last May.
The May letter included the findings of an independent investigation conducted by Scott Fredericks, a third-party investigator and lawyer with the law firm Cantey Hanger LLP. Fredericks was hired by the church in 2019 after it became aware of a federal investigation into Shiflet. Shiflet was arrested and indicted in June 2020.
"In total, the investigators found credible accounts that at least 14 girls were victims of Shiflet's abuse: 11 at Denton Bible and three at Fellowship Bible. The misconduct described in these accounts was characterized by everything from grooming behavior and sexual harassment to criminal sexual abuse, abuse of power, and spiritual abuse," the elders said. "Equally troubling, was the consistent accounts that Denton Bible did not shepherd and care for the victims after they showed great courage coming forward."