Authorities in California confirmed last week that a priest was behind bars awaiting arraignment on 30 criminal counts of child sex abuse.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 42-year-old Hector David Mendoza-Vela was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of crimes that spanned more than a year and involved a victim who was 14 at the time the alleged abuse began.
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office reports indicate the Corpus Christi Parish head priest is accused of committing “lewd and lascivious acts” on the minor between 2016 and 2017. Parishioners of the Fremont congregation reportedly received a letter confirming that he had been placed on administrative leave following his arrest last week.
Sgt. Ray Kelly said Mendoza-Vela met with the victim’s family “through his work as their Catholic priest” and soon became friends. He applauded the alleged victim’s decision to confide in a trusted adult, who then brought the allegations to the attention of law enforcement.
Though little additional information was initially available about the teen or the Mendoza-Vela’s suspected crimes, Kelly noted that a “victim having the courage to come forward and report abuse oftentimes is the break that other victims need to come forward.”
Bishop Michael Barber of the Oakland Diocese wrote the letter to parishioners, confirming that though church officials “do not have all the details, the alleged behavior is in clear violation of the Diocese’s code of conduct and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
The same diocese was recently in the news for similar reports when Alex Castillo, a priest from Costa Rica, faced allegations of sexual misconduct on a minor. He reportedly went on the lam, fleeing the country in response to the claims.
[Featured image: Hector David Mendoza-Vela, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office]