TEMPLE — Concerned parents of children who attended camps at Patriot Kids Ministry in Salado contacted the Bell County Sheriff’s Department and will be talking with the Special Crimes Unit, said Michele Cianci, Special Crimes Unit director.
The parents said they aren’t sure if anything inappropriate happened at the camps, but noticed that the attitudes of their children changed after attending the camps, Cianci said.
At a Tuesday news conference, Cianci asked parents of children who attended any of the ministry’s camps or any camps involving Tidball to talk to their children and to report any behavior or actions that didn’t seem right.
“Our main concern is the safety and welfare of children in Bell County and that is why we’re conducting this investigation,” Cianci said.
The executive director and founder of the camp, Jon P. Tidball, 63, was arrested Tuesday by the Bell County Sheriff’s Department on an outstanding warrant out of Bexar County.
The charge was indecency with a child by sexual contact.
There is “no proof and no witnesses” to support his stepdaughter’s claims, Tidball said during a phone conversation on Wednesday.
He also claimed that she had always been a “problem child” who was involved with drugs.
Tidball was released from Bell County Jail on Wednesday on a $75,000 bond.
A Bexar County grand jury handed down an indictment against Tidball Dec. 9, 2013.
The indictment states that on or about Oct. 15, 1998; March 15, 1999; June 15, 2000; March 15, 2001, and Jan. 15, 2002, Tidball intentionally engaged in sexual contact with the alleged victim, who was younger than 17 years old.
Tidball’s stepdaughter claims she was 8 years old when the sexual contact began and 14 years old when it stopped, Cianci said.
The alleged incidents happened in Germany, Connecticut and San Antonio, Cianci said.
Those are all locations where Tidball, a former Army chaplain and lieutenant colonel, was stationed.
Tidball served in the U.S. Army for 31 years before retiring in 2008, Cianci said.
Tidball’s stepson, Kevin Istre, has been the outdoor activity and sports coordinator for the ministry.
He said during a phone conversation on Thursday that he had no comment on his stepfather’s arrest.
Patriot Kids Ministries on Cedar Knob Church Road opened in January 2012.
It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing military families with free after-school programs, clubs and camps and to helping children develop life skills.
About 10 camps are offered in the summer and one or two during the winter.
Children ages 7 to 11 are allowed to participate. The organization’s website was no longer active as of Thursday.