Racine pastor facing over 75 years prison for alleged sexual assault of 2 teen girls

Racine County Eye [Racine, WI]

January 30, 2024

By Mike Daniels

A pastor of a Racine church faces more than 75 years in prison after an investigation into alleged sexual assault of two different females.

Bernabe Leon Alvarez, 37, of Racine, is charged with two felony counts of sexual exploitation by a therapist, one felony count of repeated sexual assault of a child and one felony count of child enticement.

The four felonies carry a maximum possible prison term of 77 years, six months and a total fine of $225,000.

Leon Alvarez remains free from custody on a $10,000 cash bond.

The criminal complaint: Pastor accused of sexual assault by two females

First female interviewed

An investigator with the Racine Police Department and a forensic interviewer spoke to the first female last February. The now 18-year-old stated the defendant, the pastor of her former church, not identified in the complaint, began to assault her in August of 2020, when she was 14 years old.

The girl stated she was at a church event up north, when the defendant allegedly had her jump on his back for a piggy back ride and touched her buttocks. She said he “made it seem like he was just pushing her up so she did not slip down.”

When they returned from the camping trip, Pastor Leon Alvarez allegedly insisted she continue to participate in the piggy back rides at the church, even though she didn’t want to, the complaint states. The defendant continued to touch her buttocks during those rides “multiple times,” she stated.

On one occasion, the woman stated she was setting up instruments at the church when the defendant grabbed her dress, pulled the back of it and looked at her front and her back. She further stated that Leon Alvarez would follow her into a room, try to get her in there alone and sometimes would attempt to carry her inside.

She told police she felt guilty about what had happened that that maybe she needed to tell someone, according to the complaint. She also described one time at the church when he took her to a kids’ play room, placed her down on a mat, told her she needed a massage and began to rub her body with some sort of “olive oil.”

Leon Alvarez also allegedly often tried to give the girl money or gifts, she said.

A second female comes forward

Police also spoke to a 21-year-old woman last March, who stated she knows the first woman who reported the alleged abuse. The woman had told her mother about something similar that happened with the defendant in the winter of 2021, but stated she didn’t report it at the time because “she did not want to believe that he would do something like that because he was the pastor of her church, and he was someone she put her trust into.”

The second female stated the defendant was helping her with her anxiety issues, and she trusted him. She stated he was helping her with her anxiety issues, and they began to meet. She said the defendant would text her and frequently call her.

Leon Alvarez also allegedly told her that if he was her age, he would “go for” her, and also told her she was pretty on several occasions.

Police learned that, on one occasion, the defendant stated to her that he spoke to her mother, who said it was OK that he come over to “counsel” her, as he allegedly had done with the first female. The mother denied she had that conversation with the defendant.

When the two spoke in the basement, Leon Alvarez allegedly took out a mini jar of some sort of oil, made a sign of the cross on her head and began to give her a scalp massage. The defendant then started to massage her underneath her sweater, started to press his body against her and put his hand down her tailbone, the complaint states.

The defendant then finished the massage, said a prayer and the two went upstairs. The girl’s mother confronted Leon Alvarez, and he admitted he gave her a massage, but denied he did anything in appropriate. The girl stated she had about 15 more “sessions” with the defendant after that initial incident.

Alvarez is due back in Racine County Circuit Court on Jan. 31, for a 9 a.m. preliminary hearing.