WKYC-TV, NBC - 3 [Cleveland OH]
November 9, 2023
By Dave DeNatale
Luis Jesus Barajas faces six counts of gross sexual imposition. He is accused of molesting a Westlake teen undergoing chemotherapy during a prayer session.
The 76-year-old man accused of posing as a “retired priest” and molesting a Westlake teen girl who is battling cancer has been indicted by a Cuyahoga County grand jury.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office announced Thursday that Luis Jesus Barajas was indicted on six counts of gross sexual imposition. He will be arraigned on the charges at a later date.
“Luis Barajas is a predator who took advantage of a 15-year-old during a vulnerable time,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley in a statement. “This indictment is the first step in holding him accountable.”
Barajas was arrested by Westlake police last month. According to Westlake Police Captain Gerald Vogel, the department’s investigation began after officers received a call from an area Catholic priest with a report of a “disturbing incident.”
Police say they discovered that Barajas had been in Lorain County for several months and was staying with local families. A Colombian national, acting as “a retired priest,” Barajas was visiting Northeast Ohio and performing spiritual ceremonies to the area’s Spanish-speaking populations.
On Oct. 10, Vogel reports that Barajas was driven to Westlake to bless a 15-year-old girl who was sick with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. The family had heard about a Spanish-speaking retired priest in the area and requested that Barajas pray with the teen.
Witnesses told police that Barajas touched the juvenile inappropriately during the blessing, using blankets and clothing to hide some of his actions. Vogel says the touching actions by Barajas made several witnesses uncomfortable, adding that they were “unconventional” compared to past blessings they had seen.
Investigators learned Barajas had supposedly been ordained a Catholic priest in 1982. He had been accused of sexual misconduct involving juveniles in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania around 1989 and was sent back to Colombia.
Police added that there were reports that Barajas was removed from the Priesthood at some point, but it is not clear when that happened. He was was arrested in 2019 by Virginia authorities for felony misconduct with a minor. At that time, Barajas had reportedly been “acting in the capacity of trusted family friend and as church clergy” as well.
“We do have a strong concern that there were other victims,” Vogel told 3News’ Emma Henderson. “It seems that was this guy’s whole life, what he’s been doing again since the 1980s.”
After obtaining a warrant, Westlake police arrested Barajas on Oct. 23 with a charge of gross sexual imposition, a fourth-degree felony. He was taken into custody at an Elyria residence without incident. Bond was later set for Barajas at $250,000 and his case was bound over to a grand jury.