Houston-Area Priest Gets 10 Years For Child Indecency Counts

(AP) — A Houston-area Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to a decade in prison on Wednesday for abusing children at his church more than 20 years ago.

Manuel La Rosa-Lopez pleaded guilty last month to two counts of indecency with a child. As part of an agreement with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, three other indecency with a child charges he was also facing were dropped. He will be eligible for parole after five years.

The two counts La Rosa-Lopez pleaded guilty to arise from allegations made against him while he was a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe, located just north of Houston.

In one case, La Rosa-Lopez in April 2000 brought a teenage girl to his office after confession, kissed her and then groped her days later, according to authorities. In the other case, a teenage boy told authorities La Rosa-Lopez tried to take the boy’s clothes off and put his hands down the victim’s pants in 1999.

Some of the three counts that were dropped are related to a third victim. Prosecutors say a fourth victim was from a church in neighbouring Harris County, where Houston is located.

During Wednesday’s hearing, two of the victims described the setbacks and successes they’ve had in healing from what happened to them, according to prosecutors.
“This was the day when (the victims) could speak publicly and without shame about the crimes committed against them privately, and the day when they could finally see a measure of justice,” prosecutors Nancy Hebert and Wesley LeRouax said in a statement.

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said in a statement it hoped the sentencing “will provide healing and peace to the victims and their families.”

Wendell Odom, La Rosa-Lopez’s lawyer, has said his client accepted responsibility and wanted closure.