|Shorewood Priest Who Plunged 20 Feet Charged in Child-Sex Case
By Clifford Ward
January 20, 2010
ILLINOIS -- A priest who authorities say hurled himself from a church balcony in a suicide attempt after he was accused of molesting a boy has been charged with seven felonies, including predatory criminal sexual assault, Kane County authorities said Wednesday.
The Rev. Alejandro Flores, 37, also was charged with four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and two counts of criminal sexual assault for allegedly molesting the boy, now 13, at a West Chicago church where Flores was assigned as a seminarian, according to the Kane County state's attorney's office.
State's Attorney John Barsanti said Flores abused the St. Charles boy between Jan. 1, 2005, and Jan. 1, 2010.
Flores was released from the hospital Wednesday and was in the custody of Kane County authorities. He was expected to be booked into the county jail later Wednesday and was to appear before a judge Thursday afternoon.
Flores was formally charged Friday, though the charge remained sealed until he was well enough to be taken in custody. The Bolivian-born priest had been hospitalized after reportedly trying to kill himself by leaping from the balcony. His bail was set at $1 million, Barsanti said. Flores must surrender his passport should he post bail.
On Jan. 6, two days after the Joliet Diocese placed Flores on leave from a Shorewood church when the abuse allegations surfaced, Flores fell 20 feet to the floor at St. Mary's Carmelite Church in Joliet.
He was found unconscious, lying on the floor between a row of pews. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition. Both police and church officials characterized it as a suicide attempt.
Flores was ordained in June. The abuse allegations stemmed from Flores' time as a seminarian at St. Mary Catholic Church in West Chicago, authorities said.
The church's pastor, the Rev. John Balluff, addressed the issue in the parish's weekly bulletin, urging any parishioner with additional abuse allegations to immediately contact law enforcement.
"We will always be committed to doing everything possible to protect children, to help this child and his family and to help bring about healing for our families and the people of the diocese," Balluff wrote.
Balluff did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.
At a news conference earlier this month, Joliet Bishop J. Peter Sartain apologized to the boy and his family. There were no previous abuse allegations against Flores, the bishop said.
Barsanti said his office became aware of the allegations against Flores through the West Chicago police, who had received information from the church. Under state law, clergy are mandated reporters, meaning they must forward any allegations of sexual abuse. From there, the police turned their investigation over to the Kane County Child Advocacy Center.
"The system worked pretty much like it should," Barsanti said.
Barsanti said investigators were planning to interview Flores on the same day he was injured. Since then, prosecutors have been in regular contact with the Joliet Diocese.
"I can say the diocese was completely cooperative," he said.
Lt. Pat Gengler of the Kane County Sheriff's Department said Flores would, like all prisoners, receive a screening to decide whether he should be on suicide watch or released into the general jail population. An alleged recent suicide attempt will merit additional scrutiny, he added.
"When we know there's been something like this, then we'll pay special attention," Gengler said.
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