Former Pelham Pastor Pleads Guilty to Abusing Young Girls: Garcia to Be Sentenced on Three Charges of Sexual Abuse
By Meredith Towle
Shelby County Reporter [Pelham AL]
December 19, 2006
Luis Federico Garcia, 66, of Alabaster and former pastor of Iglesia La Roca in Pelham pleaded guilty on Dec. 11 to three charges of first-degree sexual abuse. The victims were three young Hispanic girls in the church community under the age of 12.
Assistant Shelby County District Attorney Angela Dunn said the sentencing is at the discretion of the judge, but that the state will ask for the maximum time.
"We take all sexual offenses seriously," Dunn said. "Mr. Garcia was in an authoritative position and within a church. With the position he held, we will not be lenient in any way."
Garcia's sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 12, and he could face up to 10 years in prison on all three counts.
Despite media reports that Garcia was involved in Spanish ministries at First Baptist Church of Pelham, pastor Mike Shaw said that Garcia was never a member of First Baptist of Pelham and was not under their rules and regulations.
Shaw said First Baptist allowed Garcia to hold his own church services in First Baptist's previous location on Church Street, where the incidents occurred.
Shaw said the church wanted to reach out to the Hispanic population and when Garcia showed up in the congregation in December of 2000 and approached Shaw on the matter, he was excited.
"We have been wanting to reach out to the Hispanic community for Christ," Shaw said.
Before coming to First Baptist, Garcia owned two trailers, one he lived in and the other he was conducting services in.
Shaw said Garcia asked to rent out a building for his church.
"Since we had our previous building empty on Sunday mornings, I just let him use it to help him and his ministry to the Lord," said Shaw.
Shaw said Garcia was never a member of the church staff at First Baptist.
After hearing rumors about the abuse several years ago, Shaw said he confronted Garcia on the matter.
Shaw said Garcia admitted to his wrongdoings but never admitted to anything specific. After meeting with Garcia in 2003, Shaw said he filed a complaint with the Pelham Police Department.
"After about three to four months after I let him use the building I got to thinking how I didn't even check him out before allowing him to use our property," said Shaw.
Shaw said that First Baptist does background checks and drug testing before making any staff hires. "There are windows on every door and cameras in every room. We take pride in our safety for children. This is a safe place for all," he said.
After the complaints were filed, Shaw said he approached Garcia's church, informed them of the situation and told them Garcia was no longer allowed on the premises. The church still meets under a new pastor, Alex Solito, and a new name, Casa De Dias.
"The church is now doing well and the children have received counseling," Shaw said.
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