The children’s pastor of a church in rural North Carolina, who also taught elementary-age children at a local charter school, has been arrested and charged with child sex crimes.
On Tuesday, Aaron Mirtsching, 41, of Morganton, N.C., was arrested “without incident” according to a statement from Burke County Sheriff’s Office. He was charged with three felony counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. Mirtsching bonded out the same day, paying $20,000 in fees.
Mirtsching had served on staff as children’s director at Thrive Church in Morganton. According to a church statement, he was “immediately relieved of his duties.” (The church also referred to Mirtsching as “children’s pastor” in a now-deleted social post.)
The investigation was prompted by a cyber-tip from the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a collaboration of more than 200 law enforcement agencies.
According to a law firm in N.C., the felony charges specified involve the possession of child sex abuse material. Local TV station WLOS reported: “According to arrest warrants, the images found on Mirtsching’s computer in October 2022 were of children between the ages of 8 and 12 years old.”
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In a follow-up statement to TRR after initial publication of this story, leaders of Thrive Church noted their cooperation with the investigation by law enforcement.
The statement added: “Aaron started working as a part-time children’s worker in May of 2021 and just this month (August), had been moved into a full time position. We do background checks and resource checks on all workers and he was clear. Of course had we known, we would have turned him in ourselves. To date, there has been no accusation of any allegation or crime linking to Thrive Church other than him being an employee.”
Mirtsching was concurrently employed as a teacher at New Dimensions Charter School in Morganton, according to multiple sources. The Roys Report (TRR) reached out to the school’s director regarding specifics of his employment tenure but did not receive a response.
In a statement to local media, school officials said they “are cooperating with authorities, and at this time, do not know of any circumstances relating to New Dimensions.”
The statement from Thrive Church added that leaders are “committed to the safety and well-being of all those who attend.” It further stated: “We are repulsed and sickened that a trusted ‘Christian’ has exploited minors in any situation” and expressed support for such crimes to “be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Last spring, a post on the church’s Facebook page celebrated Mirtsching’s 40th birthday. It included a quote: “‘The best part of being over forty is we did most of our stupid stuff before the internet.’ – Unknown.”
A representative of the Burke County District Court stated that a preliminary hearing in Mirtsching’s case was still in session as of publication time. A probable cause hearing in his case is scheduled for September 14.
This story has been updated with an additional statement from Thrive Church.
Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his family live in the Washington, D.C. area.