July 28, 2019
By Elise Schmelzer
When she was 15 years old, Candy Orona Villalba’s pastor asked her to come live with her in a Broomfield apartment.
For the next three years, the pastor, Erika Gonzalez, sexually abused the teen, convinced her to drop out of school and said that Villalba would be punished by God if she left, Broomfield police and prosecutors allege in court documents.
“I don’t think there’s ever going to be a time that I heal from it,” Villalba, now 19, said in an interview Thursday with The Denver Post.
Provided by Broomfield Police DepartmentPastor Erika Gonzalez
More than a year after she left the pastor’s apartment — and three months before a scheduled jury trial in the case — Villalba said she is telling her story publicly because she doesn’t want others to be victimized by the 36-year-old Gonzalez, who appears to have continued preaching at her church, Ministerios Rey de Reyes.
The independent Christian church with a congregation of a few dozen people is unaffiliated to any larger denomination and operates out of rented space in Broomfield, Villalba said.
Gonzalez now faces three sexual-assault counts — including sexual assault of a child by a person in a position of trust — as well as a misdemeanor charge of obstructing the use of a telephone in connection to her relationship with Villalba.
Gonzalez’s attorney declined to comment on the allegations when contacted by a reporter. In a police interview last year, Gonzalez admitted to having what she called a consensual relationship with the teen. Her trial is scheduled for October.
The case comes as inquiries into abuse by religious leaders expands outside of those in the Catholic Church, which long has been a target of scrutiny. The Southern Baptists are grappling with the issue after an investigation by local newspapers in Texas found that 250 church leaders and volunteers had been charged with sex crimes. A network of bloggers has chronicled abuse in Protestant churches. And in Colorado, leaders of a Buddhist retreat center apologized after allegations of a pattern failing to respond to sexual-abuse claims.
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