Dillsburg man accused of child sex assault resigns as pastor

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
The Rev. Benjamin Leese

A Dillsburg man who resigned as pastor of a York Springs church about a week ago is accused of indecently assaulting a girl at a Lebanon County church camp last summer.

The Rev. Benjamin Leese, 38, of the 100 block of Gettysburg Street, will be charged with indecent assault of a child less than 13 years old, according to court documents.

He has not yet been arraigned on the first-degree misdemeanor offense. That proceeding, which includes having bail set, will happen at the time of his preliminary hearing, currently scheduled for Feb. 21, court records state.

The Lebanon County detective bureau filed the charge Jan. 17, court records state.

Leese resigned as pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in York Springs, Adams County, on Jan. 31, according to a pastoral disclosure letter from the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is part of the Garden of Grace Community of Churches.

He also resigned from the roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the statement reads.

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Volunteered at camp: According to charging documents, Leese volunteered at Camp Kirchenwald last summer, while his alleged victim was visiting the camp with her parents in early July.

Part of the Lutheran Camping Corp. of Central Pennsylvania, Camp Kirchenwald sits on 340 acres in South Londonderry Township in Lebanon County and hosts more than 400 campers each summer, according to its website.

Despite Leese being a family friend of the girl's parents, by the second day of her visit she refused to talk to — or even look at — him, which was unusual, documents state.

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The girl's mother asked what was wrong, but the girl would only say, "It's a secret," documents allege.

It was on July 25 that the girl told her mother Leese touched her private parts and saw her naked at the camp, according to allegations.

The girl repeated the allegations to investigators on Aug. 8, documents state.

A phone message left for Leese was not returned. It's unclear if he has retained an attorney.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.