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  Priest's Police Interview Played Flores Denies Charges of Sex with Teenager, Says They Were Friends

By Kerri Ginis
Fresno Bee
August 22, 2002

The Rev. Miguel Flores told a Hanford police investigator during a taped interview last March that he did not have sex with a 16-year-old girl he is accused of raping, according to transcripts released during his trial Wednesday.

When investigator Bruce Blodgett told Flores that the girl said they had sex, the priest responded: "[She] called you and said that [we] had sex? Oh my God."

Flores, who didn't know the March 11 interview was being taped when he answered questions at the Hanford police station, told Blodgett he didn't understand why the teenager said they had a sexual relationship.

"I don't have any -- how can I explain to you, I don't have that kind of relationship, you know," he said on the tape that was played during the third day of his trial.

"I don't know, I can't understand, you know, I think the family like me, you know, especially the girl."

Flores, 34, is accused of three counts of forcible rape, three counts of statutory rape, dissuading a witness and criminal threat charges. If convicted, he could spend up to 27 years in prison.

Flores has pleaded innocent. His attorney, Rick Conway, claims the teenager and her family made up the allegations to extort money from the priest. Prosecutors contend Flores raped the girl, who is now 17, three times last January and February when she worked as his office assistant at churches in Hanford and Tranquillity.

Flores, who is free on bond, has been a Roman Catholic priest for the past seven years. He was placed on leave by the Diocese of Fresno after his arrest.

The March 11 interview was the first time police questioned him about the alleged rapes.

During the interview, Flores told Blodgett he became friends with the 16-year-old and her family. He said he loaned the girl's mother $2,000 and bought the teenager and her two younger sisters about $300 in clothing during a trip to Fashion Fair Mall in Fresno earlier this year.

He also said the teenager began working for him last January at the St. Paul Church in Tranquillity. He said she continued working for him when he took over the parish duties at Hanford's Immaculate Heart of Mary Church last February.

He denied their relationship was anything more than a friendship.

"I suppose she is my friend and she like me, you know, and I like her family," he said during the interview.

Blodgett, who testified Wednesday about the interview he had with the priest, said Flores appeared uncomfortable when asked about whether he had a sexual relationship with the teenager.

"When I directed a question like that at him, he would become more evasive," Blodgett testified. "The answers were not as direct as I would get with an easy question."

Under cross-examination, Conway asked Blodgett why he didn't use a Spanish-language interpreter when he interviewed Flores. Conway pointed out that several times during the nearly 40-minute interview, Flores said he was confused or asked for questions to be repeated because he didn't understand them.

Blodgett said Flores' English seemed fine.

In other testimony Wednesday, a waitress testified that Flores confided in her that he was having a relationship with an underage girl.

Carla Camarena said she met Flores while she was working at a Mexican restaurant in Hanford last February.

Camarena testified she later went to the Hanford church where Flores lived and he told her he was going through hard times. Camarena testified that Flores said he was feeling bad about the relationship he was having with the underage girl. Camarena said he also told her he had a relationship with the girl's older sister.

Conway questioned Camarena about the way Flores described the nature of the relationship with the teenager. Camarena testified that Flores never said it was an intimate relationship.

The prosecution rested its case Wednesday afternoon. The defense called several witnesses who testified that they never saw the teenager working in the churches on the three days last January and February that she says Flores raped her.

Testimony will continue today in Kings County Superior Court.

 
 

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