Head of Christian youth group in Isanti County charged with sex assault of teen

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 29, 2010 - 8:58 PM

The 17-year-old told authorities she and the director had sex about once a week in the youth organization's offices.

A Christian youth organization director and a 17-year-old girl in his group carried on a months-long sexual relationship that included talk of marriage but culminated in the girl running off to attempt suicide, according to charges filed Friday.

Mark S. Holm, 54, of Stanchfield, Minn., who has led East Central Minnesota Young Life since 2004, was arrested Wednesday at the organization's Cambridge offices and charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Holm remained Friday in the Isanti County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail and was prohibited from attending Young Life events.

The charge was applied because of Holm's position of authority over the girl and because she was a juvenile and he was at least 4 years older.

Young Life, a worldwide organization for students from middle school to college, lists on its website a host of activities ranging from introducing "adolescents to Jesus Christ" to mentoring them in connection with camp retreats.

"We were deeply saddened by these allegations and have immediately placed Mr. Holm on administrative leave," Terry Swenson, the organization's vice president for communications, wrote in a statement Friday. "As a Christian organization that has worked to foster meaningful relationships with students for nearly 70 years, Young Life places the safety of kids as its highest priority."

Swenson added that the organization will "cooperate fully with authorities in their investigation of this case."

According to the charges: On Oct. 10, the girl took off to Duluth, and her parents couldn't reach her. The father feared his daughter was "almost suicidal." The family contacted Holm, who said the girl had run out of gas in Duluth. Authorities there found her and had her hospitalized because she had taken some pills.

The father told Holm the family thought he and the girl were too close. Holm agreed and said he would not be alone with her. On Wednesday, as the girl showered at home, her mother picked up her daughter's cell phone and read text messages between her and Holm. One mentioned getting married someday. When confronted, the girl admitted the relationship was sexual. The parents turned the phone over to police.

The girl told police that about once a week she and Holm had sex in the Young Life office.

The girl told authorities she and Holm brainstormed various scenarios should they ever be caught, ranging from running away to committing suicide and making it look like an accident. She said it was those plans that prompted her to head to Duluth. During that drive, she spoke with Holm about following through with killing herself, according to the charges.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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