A year and a half after his arrest, Ryan Walsh, a former Methodist Church youth director in Gulf Breeze, received his sentence for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in 2020. Walsh, age 30, agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors and pleaded no contest to lewd or lascivious battery. Ryan Walsh was sentenced to 10 years in state prison and five years of probation.
According to news reports, Walsh was arrested on February 11, 2020, following reports of inappropriate behavior with a teen in his youth group at the Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church located in Florida’s panhandle. Walsh was initially charged with transmitting obscene material to a minor, lewd and lascivious behavior involving a minor over 12, under 18, and the use of a computer to solicit/seduce a child. One month later, Walsh’s charges were upgraded to include lewd and lascivious battery. New court documents showed Walsh allegedly sent pictures of his genitals and videos of him touching himself to the teen victim.
In 2020, Ryan Walsh was the youth director at Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church. He had been working at that church for two and a half years prior to the assault and primarily looked after middle and high-school-aged students. According to the arrest report, a complaint was brought forward to the police after the teen’s parents told the church’s senior pastor and the executive pastor that Walsh had “inappropriately touched, sent explicit messages, and exchanged photographs” with their 13-year-old girl at the church. Walsh was fired and then arrested.
The church released a statement at the time of Walsh’s arrest saying,
“As a church, we take any allegation of misconduct very seriously. Gulf Breeze UMC requires its staff to live by the highest ethical and moral standards. Conduct that violates these standards is a very serious matter and is not tolerated. We were shocked and saddened to learn of the allegations against Ryan Walsh, former youth director at Gulf Breeze UMC. Mr. Walsh has been terminated and the church will fully cooperate with authorities in this matter. The safety of all children in our community is a priority. Our focus right now is on offering pastoral care and support to the family, the congregation, and the community. This is a painful and difficult situation for all involved, and we keep all of those affected in our prayers.” –– ALABAMA-WEST FLORIDA CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Ryan Walsh used the faith of his community to obtain the trust of the youth. Walsh’s tactics are similar to the acts of many known predators who gravitate toward fields and occupations where they would have access to minors. Walsh is just one of many authority figures to face charges this year for having inappropriate actions with a minor. This is every parent’s worst nightmare. Parents should feel confident that their children are safe with church officials and teachers and trust that their children will be cared for and protected from harm.
Attorney Adam Horowitz has substantial experience representing victims of sexual abuse in the church. If you have been a victim of sexual misconduct by Ryan Walsh or have any knowledge about such events at Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church, please contact our law firm at (888) 283-9922 or email sexual abuse lawyer [email protected] today.