'Our faith was molested': Woman said she unknowingly opened home to pastor accused of touching teens

Officials say Michael Romero confessed to molesting at least five boys while they slept at youth group retreats from 2002 to 2012.

Pooja Lodhia Image
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Former youth pastor accused in decadelong abuse against teens
Michael Romero, a former youth pastor at Magnolia First Baptist Church, allegedly confessed to touching teens from 2002 to 2012.

MAGNOLIA, Texas (KTRK) -- A former youth pastor is in jail on a $50,000 bond after police say he admitted to molesting multiple teenagers he was supposed to be advising.

Police say 51-year-old Michael Romero confessed to touching the teenagers and gave dates and locations, saying he was coming forward now because he was afraid he'd be caught.

Police say they have now confirmed at least six victims and believe there are more.

"He used that platform to prey on innocent children," Chris Hinkelman said.

Hinkelman and her family have always been heavily involved in their church.

And when Romero first became youth pastor, she was thrilled, even inviting the group to her lake house for retreats.

"My in-laws would even come up, and they were amazed by how this pastor could connect with these kids," she said. "And he's led them to Christ. He's baptized some of them. He was in my oldest son's wedding as a groomsman."

Detectives say Romero, who went by the nickname "Taco," confessed to sexually touching at least five boys after they fell asleep at youth group retreats, camps, and the lake house from 2002 to 2012.

According to court documents, two of those boys, who were 14 to 16 years old back then, confirmed the abuse, and police say they have been able to confirm four more alleged victims since then.

"The boys would always be upstairs, away from the girls. We had no idea that this was going on. No one ever came to me and said, 'Hey Ms. Hinkelman, someone touched me,'" she recalled. "They said he made it feel like it was a mistake when he did touch them. And then he would say, 'Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to do that' or whatever when it happened at night. That's since I found out in January."

SEE ORGINAL REPORT: Former Magnolia youth pastor charged with indecency of a child after alleged confession, docs say

Eyewitness News was unable to reach Romero's family on Monday, but according to court documents, he has separated from his wife.

The executive pastor of Magnolia First Baptist Church said the staff is cooperating with police, but he refused to tell us why Romero left his position back in 2012.

"Even though my kids weren't molested, our faith was. Our faith was molested, and I feel like Magnolia Baptist Church let us down," Hinkelman said.

Hinkelman now struggles with attending church.

Multiple alleged victims told Eyewitness News the same thing on Monday, even adding they won't allow their children to join church youth groups.

"I sit there and look at everybody in the congregation up on the stage, the preacher, everybody, and say, 'You're fake. You're all fake,'" she said. "How can I trust you? How can I ever trust anyone again? To prey on innocent children like that? It's something between God and I that I have to work out. To try and remember my faith is with God, and not all those people."

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