JONESBORO, Ark. – A former school teacher and pastor pleaded guilty to having an inappropriate relationship with a child, while he was her teacher, on Wednesday.
The report released by Jonesboro Police Department begins on May 9, when Detective Brandon King of the Internet Crimes Against Children lab met with the father of a 14-year-old girl who was a student at Westside School District. The father said over the weekend, his wife found an odd text message on the teenager’s phone which prompted them to look into her activity. When they did, they found she was using the messaging function of the Instagram app to communicate with David Yates, 44, of Jonesboro – an 8th grade math teacher at Westside, according to the school district’s website. The messages were “very romantic in nature,” the report said, but did not appear to have been sexual in nature.
The parent of the victim goes on to say in the report that he met with the school and Yates was suspended, with pay, pending the school’s investigation.
An iPhone 7 was turned over to the cyber detective to analyze. Inside of the phone, King found screenshots of a series of messages between the 14-year-old and someone named PSL Percussion. The detective searched for PSL Percussion and discovered Yates as the person behind the moniker.
The messages between the two were dated back as far as January, 2017.
“The two continually talked romantically and often spoke of being in love with each other and of leaving to go to Florida together when (the teen) graduates high school,” King reported.
Another concerning discovery in the messages was that the child has spoken of suicidal thoughts. Her parents were never made aware of this and Yates never reported it, either. Authorities wanted to charge him with failing to notify by a mandated reporter, but the city attorney’s office did not feel he met the legal criteria.
The report was turned over to the city attorney’s office because probable cause did not exist for a felony arrest, King said in the report. Assistant City Attorney Jessica Coleman handled the prosecution of the case.
Meanwhile, Yates resigned his position at Westside on June 19 at the district’s school board meeting, a source confirmed on condition of anonymity. The Westside superintendent had not returned a call for comment as of this publication.
On Wednesday, June 28, Yates pleaded guilty in district court to endangering the welfare of a minor. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail with 178 suspended – meaning he will serve two days in jail, pay fines and costs, and effectively be on probation for the remaining sentence. If he were to violate the terms of his suspended sentence, he could have to serve the remainder.
Coleman told NEA Report the goal of the family was to get a conviction and to keep Yates from being in a classroom setting again. Jail time was not an expectation but was a result they were pleased to see.
“There’s no allegation that there was ever any sexual conduct in the police report,” Coleman said. “Believe me, if there would have been more evidence, we would have charged him with more. After speaking with the victim’s family and considering everything involved, this is somebody you really want to get a conviction on so they can’t teach anymore. You want to get them out of the field so they don’t have access to students or young children anymore.”
Yates plea also meant the minor victim did not need to testify. The victim’s family was very happy with the outcome, Coleman said. They thought it was fair.
Yates is in Craighead County Detention Center as of this publication. He will not have to register as a sex offender.
Yates is a former pastor in several communities in NEA, research showed. Yates officiated funeral services in St. Francis County on a number of occasions, a number of obituaries showed. Yates was a pastor in Wynne for several years, a contact at the Cross County Chamber of Commerce confirmed Thursday.
Update: 4:20 p.m. – NEA Report has learned Yates was the pastor of the Valley View Missionary Baptist Church in Jonesboro. The Facebook page of the church has been deactivated and the church website does not mention Yates. A cached version of the church Facebook page showed Yates and made multiple references to him.
Read more – he was on the pulpit in Jonesboro three days before the plea.
Read also – Westside releases a statement
Story by Stan Morris | NEA Report
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David Yates was my pastor and one time in Haynes, AR., at First Baptist Church of Haynes, AR. This man is not a bad man and I honestly believe he had no foul intentions or any bad intentions he just got caught up in a delicate, touchy, situation. Everyone makes mistakes we are all sinner’s and make mistakes. Hopefully things start looking up for you Brother David! And yeah, I remember you and the family and I are keeping you in our prayers.