a man with a white beard and grey shirt
Monte Chitty, originally arrested on March 4 for sexual assault charges with a 15-year-old victim, is now on the run from authorities. MCSO/Contributed

A Marathon pastor accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl is now on the run from authorities after skipping his arraignment, State Attorney Dennis Ward confirmed to the Keys Weekly Monday afternoon. 

Monte Chitty, a 62-year-old pastor of Marathon’s First Baptist Church who faces two felony charges and one misdemeanor stemming from sexual assault allegations, is believed to no longer be in the Florida Keys, or even in Florida, after leaving town in a white van with out-of-state license plates, Ward and Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said.

“The last we know, he was leaving Florida and heading west,” Ward said.

“He is a direct threat to not only this community, but any other community he may be traveling through or hiding out in,” said Ramsay. “People like this who are sexual offenders prey on innocent victims, and their desires don’t stop because they’re on the lam. He’s virtually public enemy number one for this county right now.”

Chitty was arrested March 4 after an investigation that began with an anonymous call to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office saying the caller overheard a girl tell an adult she had been raped.

According to his arrest report, as deputies started to look for the girl, another call came in from Chitty himself, saying he believed he was about to be accused of something and “wanted to get ahead of it.”

The victim told investigators Chitty gave her an alcoholic beverage that she believed was spiked with something else, the report said. She said she lost consciousness after drinking it, and awoke to find Chitty molesting her.

Chitty originally told officers that the girl had passed out on a couch after drinking in his church’s library and that he had helped her to lie down on the couch, but had not touched her otherwise, his arrest report said.

Matching text messages detailed in the arrest report were found on both Chitty’s and the victim’s phones that referenced acts performed by Chitty while the victim was unconscious. Though the report said Chitty initially admitted to sending the messages, he later invoked his right to an attorney and denied the sexual contact.

Chitty was initially released from county jail after posting a $75,000 bond. That amount will now be forfeited after he failed to appear with no communication at Monday’s hearing, Ward said. A second hearing later the same day before Judge James Morgan upped Chitty’s bond to $1.3 million in light of his presumed flight and additional evidence.

Ward confirmed that additional evidence, including recorded telephone calls from jail and a probe into Chitty’s internet search history, gave prosecutors and detectives additional worries and reason to believe Chitty would leave town. The calls revealed he had told his wife not to pay any bills, Ward said.

Anyone with information on Chitty’s whereabouts is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477.

Alex Rickert
Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.