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  Arrest of Fugitive Priest Is Blocked
Garcia's Move to Regain Spanish Citizenship Halts Effort

By Evan Moore
Houston Chronicle
August 8, 1996

Yet another obstacle has arisen in the effort to arrest the Rev. Jesus Garcia, a fugitive Catholic priest who fled his South Texas parish after being accused of sexually assaulting several boys and a man two years ago.

Garcia, now living near Madrid, Spain, has filed to regain his Spanish citizenship, a move that virtually puts a hold on a fugitive warrant for his arrest.

Houston FBI spokesman Jim Conway said his office recently learned that Garcia made his application for repatriation about a month ago.

"With that being the case, the State Department is holding off on serving the warrant until the citizenship question is resolved," Conway said.

"If he's denied citizenship, then we'll pick him up. If he's granted citizenship, there's the possibility he could be prosecuted by Spanish authorities. "

The latest development leaves Garcia's accusers and their families with less hope that the priest may be returned and brought to trial.

"It appears that this priest can get away with murder," said Houston lawyer David Berg, who represents several families who are suing the Corpus Christi Diocese over Garcia.

"What can I say," said Adela Olivarez, mother of one of theyouths. "I'm frustrated and I'm angry. "

The Garcia case has been plagued with obstacles ever since her son, Santos Olivarez Jr., then 18, first complained to Corpus Christi Bishop Rene Gracida in September 1994, that the Mathis priest had drugged and molested him in 1991.

Moreover, the youth's father, Santos Olivarez Sr., then a deacon in the church, said Garcia had drugged and assaulted him in a similar manner while the two were traveling with a group in Rome in February 1994.

Two days after the Olivarezes made their accusations to the bishop, Gracida allowed the priest to leave the Sacred Heart Church in Mathis and fly to Spain. There, he moved into his family home in Burgos, near Madrid, and began serving as a priest in a Madrid Catholic church.

Shortly after Garcia fled Mathis, the Olivarez family took their complaint to San Patricio County District Attorney Tom Bridges, but no charges were brought against the priest.

In the following weeks four additional youths came forward, all telling similar stories of how Garcia had invited them for overnight stays at the rectory, fed them drug-laced milk and sexually assaulted them.

One of them, Felix Cornejos, had made his complaint to Gracida as early as April 1993, but said he was told that the priest would be dealt with within the church.

The Olivarez family, Cornejos and Juan Rodriguez Jr., another of the young men, sued the Corpus Christi Diocese in January 1995.

Shortly afterward, Santos Olivarez Sr. was stripped of his post as a deacon. Juan Rodriguez Sr., a maintenance man at Sacred Heart and father of one of the youths, had his work hours cut from 40 to 20 per week.

The Chronicle published a story about the priest in April of 1995. Two months later, Bridges obtained an indictment against Garcia.

He was not immediately arrested, however. Bridges did not supply the $ 7,000 required by the FBI to arrest and transport Garcia back to the United States until June of this year.

Bridges declined to discuss the case at that time and has not returned the Chronicle's calls about Garcia since.

Gracida also has refused to discuss the case.

Garcia's accusers say they have become disheartened with the case. Two of the youths attempted suicide. All have stopped attending the church and several say they have been ostracized in Mathis.

They have been criticized from the pulpit. Deacon Antonio Lara, speaking to a Sacred Heart congregation, compared them to "organ grinders' monkeys, dancing for the money. " "It's never been over money," said Adela Olivarez. "I want (Garcia) brought back and punished. "

The Olivarezes plan to leave Mathis. The Rodriguezes say they wish they could, but cannot afford to leave.

"It's little things," said Juan Rodriguez Jr., now a 24-year-old welder. "At work some guy will say something like, 'Hey, Juan, want to go get a glass of milk? '

"They don't know how that makes me feel. "

 
 

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