parishioners shocked, sad after pastor arrested
By Darrell Smith
May 12, 2014
|A priest at St. James Parish
Catholic church in Davis has been arrested the Davis Police
said.Friday May 9, 2014 arrest of the Rev. Hector Coria, 45,
was the result of an ongoing investigation by Davis police.
for allegedly abusing a 17-year-old female.
Maria Bunter heard the news over the weekend and
couldn’t believe it. Not our Hector, she said. Can’t
But on Monday, days after a popular priest at her Davis
church was arrested on allegations of sex with a 17-year-old
girl, sadness joined Bunter’s disbelief as reality sank
in. Hector Coria, 45, a pastor at St. James Parish in Davis, was
arrested by Davis police Friday on suspicion of oral copulation
and statutory rape involving the teen.
Davis police allege that while a priest at St. James in
2013, Coria befriended the girl and that the two later engaged
in sexual relations. Police on Monday offered little information
but said search warrants yielded enough to arrest the pastor
Friday night. Coria remained free on bail Monday.
“We have a great deal of compassion for him and all
concerned. He was a wonderful priest,” Bunter said Monday,
standing with husband Walter in the parish parking lot. Coria,
she said, always “found the right words” at the
“It’s very sad,” Walter Bunter added.
“But we agree with the American system and presume
One of 12 children raised in a devout Catholic family in
Guadalajara, Mexico, Coria once told of the silent retreat
following a mission in Honduras that led him to the clergy.
“I felt the call of God and it surprised me,”
he told the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento publication
Catholic Herald in 2011 while he was an associate pastor at Our
Lady of the Assumption Parish in Carmichael. “I always
thought I would be involved in my family’s business and
have my own family. But now I was sure about my call to the
priesthood.” He later said, “I want to be a caring
priest, celebrating sacraments in the best way I can.”
Parishioners learned of Coria’s arrest at evening
Mass on Saturday. By then, the Roman Catholic Diocese of
Sacramento had placed the priest on paid administrative leave
and ordered him to move out of the church. Coria can no longer
function as a priest until legal proceedings have concluded,
said diocesan spokesman Kevin Eckery.
“We made it very clear that we have zero tolerance
for abuse in the diocese,” Eckery said. “When we
find it and it’s brought to our attention, we work with
The investigation of Coria continues. It’s not the
first time the Sacramento diocese has tackled sex allegations
and scandal. The Rev. Uriel Ojeda was sentenced in August 2013
to eight years in prison for molesting a girl in his Woodland
parish, following his arrest in 2011 on suspicion of child
Other parish members learned of the Friday arrest by
email, including parents of the K-8 St. James School next door
to the church. Their shock and surprise were shared by the
In a Sunday evening email to St. James School parents
provided to The Bee, principal Darrin Greer called the news
“The shock, sadness and disillusionment that
accompanies such a news announcement is profound,” the
letter continued, adding that counselors were to be on hand
Monday to talk with students.
The email also contained advice for families whose
children may have questions about the news and allegations. In
the letter, Greer said there was no indication of inappropriate
contact with students. Davis police on Monday said there were no
other alleged victims.
“You’re just kind of surprised. You
didn’t see that coming,” said Johnny Voss, 17, of
Davis, whose younger siblings attend St. James and whose family
was among those who received emails of Coria’s arrest.
Merry Hart of Davis waited to pick up her grandchild from
school Monday. She said her daughter was impressed at how
quickly school officials alerted parents of the arrest.
“She was very impressed with the fact that the
principal notified people immediately,” Hart said.
“It takes a lot of guts to do that.”
Eckery attended Saturday’s Mass in Davis and saw
parishioners as they absorbed the news of Coria’s arrest.
Emotions ranged broadly from shock to stoicism and
“Shock, surprise, then ultimately the realization
– you worry about a possible victim. It’s always a
serious situation,” Eckery said. “It’s
difficult on a parish when allegations take place like