A Catholic priest accused of 42 counts of child molestation may be hiding in the El Paso-JuÃ¡rez area and may pose a danger to boys in the community, c officials said Thursday.
The Southwest Fugitive Task Force is searching for Siegfried Widera, 62, of Orange County, Calif., who has been accused of a multitude of sex offenses since he was ordained in 1967. Most of his victims were 14, officials said.
Law enforcement officials suspect that Widera fled from California to this region to hide with the help of relatives after he was indicted by the Orange County district attorney’s office Oct. 22, 2002.
“It is our understanding that he is still conducting himself as a priest,” El Paso County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Rick Glancey said. “He’s very good at working his way into a community, gaining some public trust and confidence. He may go into small villages in Mexico.”
Widera’s sister-in-law, Leslie Widera, said from her home in Costa Mesa, Calif., that she hadn’t heard from him in about a year. “He has no relatives in El Paso, but he used to work in Tucson,” she said. “My husband says for all he knows, he could be dead.”
Denise Alexander, deputy district attorney of Orange County, said Widera is suspected of having a long history of abusing boys while working at the Diocese of Orange in California. “For some of these kids, a family member would have passed away, and he would assume a fatherly figure,” she said. “The victims eventually came forward and brought it to our attention.”
Investigations of cases involving Widera have also emerged in Arizona and Wisconsin.