Peter Knebel to be sentenced in January

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A former Waukesha pastor pleaded guilty Thursday, Oct. 20, to restraining and fondling a 10-year-old girl in his church office last July.

He will be sentenced for his crime in January.

During a hearing in Waukesha County Circuit Court, Peter Knebel, who worked for a time as a congregational care pastor at Fox River Christian Church in Waukesha, entered his plea to an amended charge of second-degree sexual assault of a child. Judge Lee Dreyfus found him guilty, according to online court records, and will sentence Knebel on Jan. 3.

Knebel was originally charged with first-degree sexual assault of a child/sexual contact with a person younger than 13 years old on July 27, 2015, following the July 19 incident. The church suspended him once the allegations surfaced.

The charge was reduced as part of a plea agreement.

According to a criminal complaint, Knebel told police he brought the victim into his church office and instructed her to sit on his lap while she was using a computer. Knebel put his arm around her before moving his hand up and over her body. He said in the complaint that he touched the girl's breast with his thumb.

The girl said Knebel forced her to sit on him by wrapping his right arm around her stomach and pulling her onto his lap. She told police Knebel pulled so hard it felt like her "stomach was going to burst," according to the complaint. She said Knebel touched her for around 30 seconds before she ran out of the office, "uncomfortable and scared."

The church's executive pastor, Mark Roberts, called police on July 25 after Knebel reportedly first denied and then admitted to the allegations.

Knebel reportedly told police he "struggles with lust" and thought he would be able to "control it." Since posting bail late last July, he relocated twice. He first moved from Waukesha to Milwaukee, and now lives in Oshkosh, court records show.

In his role at the church, Knebel made hospital visits and provided care to grieving families. He also helped families plan funerals and directed the services. Additionally, he worked as a school bus driver for the Waukesha School District from August 2009 to June 2015.

He's facing up to 40 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.

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