Priest Accused of Molesting 15-Year-Old Girl
A visiting cleric from a Mexican diocese allegedly fondled and kissed the teen while hearing her confession at a Valley home

By Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein
Los Angeles Times
August 12, 2003

A Roman Catholic priest was arrested on suspicion of molesting a 15-year-old girl during a confessional that detectives described as part sex education and part scripture at a San Fernando Valley home, authorities said Monday.

Father Audon Serratos, 31, allegedly fondled the teenager and repeatedly kissed her during an 80-minute confession on Saturday, police said.

Investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department's Sexually Exploited Child Unit said the priest was assigned to the Diocese of Colima, Mexico. Officials with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles could not determine immediately whether Serratos had permission to minister in Los Angeles.

"It is a violation of the family's trust and the girl's trust," said LAPD Capt. Sharyn Buck.

"What makes it more egregious" is that the incident took place during a confession, she added.

Serratos, dressed in his vestments, cited several Bible stories and passages and then broke into a sex-education talk during the girl's confession, police alleged. He allegedly told her that "boys get excited when they kiss girls and girls get excited when they kiss boys. Don't be nervous."

Serratos was booked on a charge of felony lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor and was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail at the LAPD's Van Nuys Station jail.

Serratos, described by investigators as a traveling priest, could be arraigned today.

At the beginning of the year, 11 priests were facing criminal trials in Los Angeles during a molestation scandal that rocked the Catholic Church. Hundreds more had been accused of misconduct. Charges against most of them have been dropped as the result of a court decision.

Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said Serratos is not with the archdiocese. Tamberg said every priest visiting within the archdiocese must apply for permission to minister.

Tamberg said archdiocese officials could not determine whether such permission had been granted to Serratos. Officials with the Diocese of Colima could not be reached for comment.

The alleged incident occurred as Serratos took the individual confessions of several members of the girl's family at a home in the 6900 block of Etiwanda Avenue in Reseda.

Investigators said the girl was alone in a room with the priest when he allegedly molested her. No other family members have reported being touched, investigators said.

Serratos also spoke to the teenager's 10-year-old sister alone. Investigators said he had asked the girl at one point if she had a boyfriend. When she replied that she did not, he recounted two Bible stories and ended the meeting after 20 minutes.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.