Local Priest Pleads Guilty to Sexual Battery

September 29, 2010

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. -- A priest with ties to the Ohio Valley pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexually battering a young girl in Virginia.

Prosecutors said the Rev. Felix Owino was drinking the night he inappropriately touched an 11-year-old girl.

"I did what they said," Owino told a Fairfax County, Va., judge in a soft-spoken voice.

If the judge approves the plea agreement, Owino won't serve more than five years in prison. Officials said Owino also faces deportation back to his home country of Kenya.

Owino most recently served as an associate pastor at St. Paul's parish in Weirton. Until June, he was also a faculty member in the philosophy department of Wheeling Jesuit University.

He was charged with one count of aggravated sexual battery stemming from a July 7 incident involving a child in Herndon, Va. Police said they were called to a home after a family reported Owino -- their house guest and longtime friend -- inappropriately touched a girl in their home.

Prosecutors said Owino was watching a movie at the family's home when he moved to the back of the room next to the victim and rubbed the girl's hands and feet. He then touched her in inappropriate places and told the girl, "Do not tell."

The child told her mother, and the mother kicked Owino out of the house and ordered him to stay on the steps until police arrived. Prosecutors said Owino admitted he touched the girl and told police he'd not done anything like that before.

Prosecutors said the victim's family accepted the plea deal, and victims' advocates said families usually do that to protect their child from going to court.

Although Owino made a plea deal with prosecutors for a maximum of 5 years, the judge made it clear the decision is ultimately up to him. He could reject the plea bargain out and give Owino the maximum sentence of 20 years.

Owino could also be deported because he's not an American citizen. Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Owino was ordained in 1992 and is a member of the Religious Missionary Institute of the Apostles of Jesus, headquartered in Philadelphia. He joined the faculty of Wheeling Jesuit in the fall of 2008 and taught for two consecutive terms, most recently instructed an online class. Prior to that, he worked at Magdalen College in New Hampshire and before that at Alvernia College in Reading, Pa.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled to take place in December. Stay with NEWS9, and WTOV9 Mobile for continuing coverage.


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