Priest arrested for allegedly raping a woman in Benton County

KEPR-TV, CBS-19 [Pasco WA]

September 7, 2022

By Sasha Terry

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. — A local priest, who has served at St. Joseph Catholic Church and at St. Patrick Catholic church in Pasco is now in the Benton County Jail facing rape charges.

According to Monsignor Robert Siler with the Yakima Diocese, 49-year old Rev. Tomás Vázquez Téllez was arrested on September 7th by Kennewick Police Department Officers.

Vázquez was booked into the Benton County Jail on suspicion of 3rd Degree Rape with an aggravating factor of being a person of trust.

Siler said the woman reported that her and Vázquez had developed a friendship over the course of the past few years. The woman claims they had lunches and dinners together, but that the priest had never made romantic overtures before. The woman said she viewed Vázquez as a friend whom she could confide.

According to Siler, the woman reported the alleged rape occurred following a dinner at a home Vázquez owns. The woman said she left the home of her own accord after waking up the morning of August 20th.

Yakima Diocese Bishop Joseph Tyson has ordered Vázquez to cease all public ministry and has prohibited him from the leaving the country. Vázquez is also is prohibited from contacting the woman who reported the alleged rape.

Bishop Tyson said, after a brief interview with a diocesan official, the diocese supported the woman in having a medical exam, and in her decision to report alleged rape to Kennewick Police.

“We are shocked and saddened by these developments,” Bishop Tyson said. “I am grateful that the woman came forward immediately and trusted another of our priests well enough to confide in him and to bring this matter to light.”

Bishop Tyson said that in both civil and church law, Vázquez is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and will receive salary and benefits from the diocese while he awaits a resolution of any criminal charges in court.

According to Bishop Tyson, the Church will not pay for his legal defenses. While awaiting the outcome of the investigation, Vázquez also was required to cooperate with the process and check in daily with another priest of the diocese. Vázquez complied with those directives.