Tri-Cities priest arrested after being accused of rape

KAPP-TV, ABC-35 [Yakima WA]

September 7, 2022

By Erin Wencl

Rev. Tomas Vazquez Tellez, 49, who served St. Joseph Catholic Church in Kennewick and St. Patrick Catholic Church in Pasco was taken to the Benton County Jail Wednesday.

BENTON COUNTY – A priest who served two churches in the Tri-Cities was arrested Wednesday after a woman said he raped her at his home.

Rev. Tomas Vazquez Tellez, 49, is accused of third-degree rape with an aggravating factor of being a person of trust.

The Kennewick Police Department said a woman reported to another priest within the Yakima Diocese that Vasquez had raped her after a dinner at his home. The woman then reported it to the police, a decision, according to diocesan officials, made with their full support.

Vasquez resigned as pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in April of 2020 and began serving St. Patrick Catholic Church in Pasco prior to leaving for a three-month study program in Jerusalem in 2021.

The woman, who is in her 30s, said she and Vasquez had developed a friendship over the last few years and had gone to lunches and dinners prior to the one at his home on August 19. The woman allegedly told police she woke up in Vasquez’s home the next morning and left on her own.

Yakima Diocese Bishop Joseph J. Tyson was informed of the investigation and the diocese reported Vazquez was ordered to stop all public ministry and was not allowed to leave the country.

Vazquez was also ordered by the diocese to have no contact with the woman who had reported what had happened.

“We are shocked and saddened by these developments,” Bishop Tyson said in a press release. “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 due to civil and church law, Vazquez will continue to receive his salary and benefits from the diocese while the criminal case is in court, however, the Church will not pay for his legal defenses. The Bishop said Vazquez was ordered to check in daily with another priest of the diocese and has complied.

Vazquez, at last check, is currently in the Benton County Jail. The case has been moved to Benton County Superior Court.