FORMER BAPTIST principal faces kidnapping, abuse charges

Wednesday, May 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ A former Baptist school principal who allegedly kidnapped an 11-year-old girl faces abduction and sexual abuse charges following his arrest near the Las Vegas Strip.

William A. Beith, 28, is accused of running off with the sixth-grader last week, taking her halfway across the country before police stopped the two in a vehicle with Indiana plates as they drove down a highway.

Beith was arrested on federal charges of coercing and enticing a minor into sexual acts and transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes.

He also faces state charges of kidnap, sexual assault of a minor under 14 and lewdness with a minor under 14, said Grant Ashley, FBI agent in charge of the Las Vegas office.

Beith faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted on the federal charges. He was scheduled for arraignment Wednesday.

The girl, from Gary, Ind., had been reported missing May 1 after an argument with her parents at a discount store. An employee told police she was crying and seen running in the parking lot. Her parents believe she might have telephoned Beith, former principal of her school, Liberty Baptist Academy in Lake Station, Ind.

Ashley said an officer recognized the pair from descriptions that had been circulated, adding that Beith cooperated when he was stopped.

The FBI and police did not say what the two were doing in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas police Lt. Tom Monahan said the state sex-related charges were added after the girl underwent an examination at Sunrise Hospital Tuesday.

``Our fears were confirmed,'' Monahan said.

Investigators believe the pair spent at least one night in Las Vegas and that the girl was molested while there, he said.

The girl's parents anxiously awaited her arrival in Indiana.

``We're having a party! Everyone's invited,'' her father said after the FBI called to tell him that the girl had been found.

Nick Thiros, Beith's lawyer, was in court and could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Baptist school recently sent a letter to parents saying Beith was no longer employed at the school.

He was charged in 1990 with contributing to the delinquency of a minor after being caught partially undressed with a 15-year-old girl.

He became Liberty Baptist's principal in 1998 when his father resigned after being arrested for allegedly soliciting a male undercover police officer for oral sex.

Charges against both Beith and his father were dismissed after they underwent counseling.