Investigation into accused priest continues

BROWNSVILLE — The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Wednesday that it is investigating “one or two” former priests who are alive and accused of sexual abuse.

“Although the investigation is still ongoing, it does show that most of the alleged perpetrators are deceased and the alleged acts occurred more than 10 years ago and therefore fall outside the statute of limitations,” District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said. “There are one or two where the perpetrator is alive and the alleged acts are still in the statute of limitations and those are the ones we are focused on.”

The Diocese of Brownsville in late January released a list of 13 priests and a deacon, who were assigned to 42 parishes across the Rio Grande Valley, who the church says are “credibly accused” of child sexual abuse.

After the Diocese released the list, the DA’s Office initiated an investigation.

“I can tell you that up to this point the Diocese through their counsel has been very forthcoming in providing information that I requested,” Saenz said.

Saenz declined to name the suspects and it wasn’t immediately clear whether the suspects were on the list of credibly accused the Diocese of Brownsville released.

However, Saenz did say the one individual his investigators are focusing on that is alive and the allegations fall within the statute of limitations is not in the United States.

“One of the individuals is believed to be outside of the U.S.,” Saenz said. “So … if we do decide that we can charge him, if he does get arrested, it would involve extradition.”

Saenz did not release any information about the other individual.

It’s also not immediately clear whether the church or any victims ever reported any of the priests accused of sexual abuse in Cameron County to authorities.

After the Diocese of Brownsville released the list, The Brownsville Herald filed Texas Public Information Act requests with police departments in Brownsville, Harlingen, San Benito and with the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department.

The Brownsville Police Department requested more time to work on the request from the newspaper because of the difficulty of searching through the records, which the newspaper consented to.

The city of Harlingen and Cameron County responded to the requests, saying there were no responsive records pursuant to the request.

San Benito spokeswoman Martha McClain did not respond to the request — a violation of the Texas Public Information Act.