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West Palm minister charged with online solicitation of boy, 15

Broward deputies said they have arrested a West Palm Beach man who used Internet chat rooms to meet and solicit teenagers for sex while telling investigators he was only trying to lead the youngsters down the path of righteousness.

Here's what BSO spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said happened near North Lauderdale around 5 p.m. on Monday after a deputy was dispatched to State Road 7 and Northwest 62 Street to check on a suspicious person in a white Buick who was prowling around a house in the neighborhood:

When the deputy arrived, the car was no longer at the house. But it wasn't long before the deputy spotted the Buick nearby. A young man was walking away from the vehicle when the deputy approached the car to question the driver, who identified himself as Hewart Lee Bennett.

Bennett told deputies he was an assistant youth minister at the First Seventh-day-Adventist Church in West Palm Beach and was in the area to talk to young boys and girls about being gay and trying to put them back on the right path. Bennett also said he meets young kids, usually between 15 and 17 years old, on the Internet, preferably in gay chat rooms. He said he had been in the area for about an hour trying to find a teenage boy he'd met online.

When deputies made contact with the young man who was seen walking from Bennett's car, the youth said Bennett stopped him at Bailey Road and asked for directions, then demanded he get in the car. The youngster said he purposely gave Bennett the wrong address, then ran home out of fear. The 15-year-old, whose name was withheld by BSO, said he didn't know Bennett, but had talked to him online in a gay chat room. The youngster said Bennett disguised himself as a young male and he said he (Bennett) "wanted to come over and have anal sexv… and teach me different sexual positions."

When asked about the allegations, Bennett admitted to talking about sex with children he meets online. But Bennett said he only describes sex acts in order to gain their trust so he can tell them about Jesus.

Based on Bennett's own admissions, he was arrested for using a computer service to, or attempt to, seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, a child to commit any illegal sexual or lewd act.

BSO investigators believe this is not the first time Bennett lured a minor to meet him and are trying to determine if Bennett had contact with any other youth online.


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