Sonoma priest charged with molesting three children

The San Francisco Chronicle/June 22, 2006
By Jim Doyle

The Sonoma County district attorney's office filed criminal charges today against a 67-year-old Catholic priest in Sonoma on suspicion of molesting three children.

The Rev. Francisco Ochoa-Perez of Sonoma was charged with 10 felonies and one misdemeanor violation involving lewd conduct with three minor children.

Ochoa-Perez has served as an assistant pastor at St. Francis Solano Catholic Church in Sonoma, but law enforcement authorities said today that his whereabouts were unknown.

"He is considered a flight risk," District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said. "There is information he is in Mexico."

All three alleged victims were boys. One was 12 years old; the other two boys were between the ages of 14 and 16 when the alleged crimes were committed. According to the criminal complaint, the crimes are alleged to have been committed from 1988 to the present.

"We obviously take this matter very serious, and the charges reflect that," Passalacqua said.

If convicted of offenses involving two or more victims, Ochoa-Perez faces a sentence of life in prison.

Passalacqua said that his office has prepared a criminal complaint and has requested that a judge approve a no-bail arrest warrant for Ochoa-Perez, who is also known as Francisco Xavier Ochoa.

The Rev. Michael Kelly, the church's pastor, could not be reached for comment.

The charges allege that Ochoa-Perez committed various acts with minors including lewd conduct with a child under the age of 14, lewd conduct with two minors under the age of 16, including forcible sodomy, and forcible oral copulation.

Detectives from the Sonoma County Sheriff Department's Sexual Assault Division began investigating the priest's conduct after being contacted by the Diocese of Santa Rosa.

State law requires religious institutions to disclose to law enforcement agencies any evidence of child sex abuse.

"The bishop brought this to law enforcement's attention," Passalacqua said. "Without Bishop Walsh's steps that are required under mandatory reporting, law enforcement would not have been able to conduct an investigation."

Bishop Daniel Walsh was unavailable for comment.

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