East Texas Jury Sentences Former Priest to Life Imprisonment

Star-Telegram [Tyler TX]
October 24, 2003

TYLER, Texas - An East Texas jury has sentenced a former priest who once evaded prosecution by fleeing to South America to life imprisonment for the repeated sexual assault of a teenage parishioner.

Following Gustavo DeJesus Cuello' sentencing on Thursday, the victim told the Colombian national that she hated him for destroying her life and thanked jurors for helping give it back to her.

Cuello had pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child. But he rejected a 50-year prison term assessed by state District Judge Cynthia Kent earlier this month and requested a jury trial on the punishment phase of his case.

Cuello, 40, was removed from the priesthood after his 1997 arrest for the systematic abuse of the victim, a 13-year-old altar girl, in his church office at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.

The victim, now 21, thanked the jury "for the decision you made for me and my family. After seven years, I can finally live in peace because this monster is going away.

"And to everyone supporting him, all I have is hate for you," the victim yelled.

Some jurors smiled at the victim as they left the courtroom after two days of emotional testimony about the repeated sexual abuse.

The seven-man, five-woman jury deliberated for 4 1/2 hours before assessing the maximum life term and a $5,000 fine for Cuello, who had fled Texas while free on bond. He was married and working in the private sector when he was recaptured seven years later in Ecuador.

Cuello had bonded out of jail with money raised by the congregation and a number of parishioners testified in his defense during his trial.


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