Suspect Priests Found in Mexico the Two Men Fled the Area Following Abuse Allegations

By Jennifer Garza
Sacramento Bee
March 18, 2005

Two former Sacramento diocesan priests who fled the country after charges of sexual abuse are serving as priests in Mexico, news that has outraged victims and local diocesan officials.

The Roman Catholic priests are the Rev. Jose Luis Urbina, who was convicted of sexually molesting a minor in 1989, and the Rev. Gerardo Beltran, who disappeared in 1991 after Sacramento police began investigating allegations that he molested two young girls.

Urbina has been serving at his hometown parish in Navojoa, Mexico, for about a decade. While in the Sacramento diocese, Urbina was accused of sexually molesting a boy over the course of several years, in one instance pointing a gun at his victim before molesting him. Urbina admitted guilt but left the country before sentencing.

Beltran serves in a remote region of southern Mexico.

The Dallas Morning News reported the priests' whereabouts as part of the newspaper's ongoing series on accused priests who are now working in other countries.

Urbina and Beltran have been wanted by local authorities for more than a decade.

"We will start exploring extradition for Mr. Urbina immediately," said Patrick J. McGrath, district attorney for Yuba County, where Urbina was convicted.

It was unclear Thursday whether Sacramento authorities would seek to extradite Beltran. He was charged with four counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14, according to the affidavit with an arrest warrant issued in 1992 by a Sacramento judge.

Lana Wyant, a spokeswoman for Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully, said the agency would consider extradition if local police requested it. They had not done so as of late Thursday, she said. Local police officials could not be reached for comment.

Extraditing someone from Mexico "is a long process, but it can be done and in fact has been done," Wyant said.

Urbina's victim, who was abused from the age of 8 until he was 17, was distraught after hearing that Urbina is still working as a priest.

The 33-year-old state worker, who has a pending lawsuit against the diocese, said he has not been able to eat or sleep since learning of Urbina's whereabouts.

"I can't explain the way I feel. ... It's like I'm that 8-year-old boy again," said the Sacramento man, who did not want to be identified. "I'm angry, and I'm upset. I just can't believe he's still a priest."

Urbina's victim's lawsuit is one of 33 facing the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento accusing clergy of sexual abuse. This week, settlement talks between diocesan attorneys and attorneys for the plaintiffs were recessed until May. A court date has been set for June 27.

Diocesan officials said they were surprised to learn that Urbina and Beltran are serving as priests.

"The bishop is very angry ..."

said Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the diocese. "As far as he is concerned, both of them are fugitives."

Bishop William K. Weigand could not be reached for comment.

Eckery said Weigand and his predecessor, Bishop Francis Quinn, contacted church officials in Mexico several times and told them about the priests.

Church officials in Mexico did not return phone calls from The Bee Thursday.

Quinn suspended the faculties of both priests, a process that supposedly would stop them from working actively as clergy.

This week, after learning of the priests' whereabouts, Weigand contacted church officials at the Vatican and in Mexico and reported his concerns.

"He's made it clear that these men are not supposed to be functioning as priests," Eckery said.

Beltran, now 48, came to the Sacramento diocese in 1982 and served until May 1991, according to diocesan records. During that time, he served at St. Dominic in Orland, St. Joseph in Sacramento and St. Anthony in Winters.

Urbina, 51, served in the Sacramento diocese from 1979 until 1989. He worked at various parishes, including St. Isidore in Yuba City and St. Joseph in Marysville.

Urbina's victim called the priest "a monster" and is concerned that the man who molested him has hurt other children.

Now that he knows where the priest is, Urbina's victim is more resolved than ever. "I'm going to do everything I can to make sure this guy is brought to justice."


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