A former Tulia priest is being held in the Swisher County Jail awaiting extradition to California to face charges of sexually abusing two boys in the 1980s.
Swisher County Sheriff Larry Stewart confirmed Monday that John Anthony Salazar-Jimenez, 47, was arrested last week and was being held at the county jail.
Salazar-Jimenez, who California officials originally believed was living in Canada, was apparently visiting acquaintances in Swisher County when warrants for his arrest were issued in California.
Salazar-Jimenez was charged Nov. 25 in Los Angeles with two counts related to sexual contact with a boy under 18 and a boy under 16, said Jane Robison, press secretary with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
The former priest has been under suspicion before, dating back to 1986 when he was charged with eight counts of sexual abuse in Los Angeles.
A year later, Salazar-Jimenez pleaded guilty to two felony counts for molesting two boys in his living quarters at St. Lucy’s Catholic Church. He was sentenced to six years in prison, but he served only three.
The Amarillo Diocese hired Salazar-Jimenez in 1991 directly from a New Mexico treatment program for sexual offenders and assigned him to the Church of the Holy Spirit in Tulia, where he served until he resigned this year.
Amarillo Diocese officials said previously that they received no complaints of inappropriate behavior in Tulia, and parishioners from the church praised Salazar-Jimenez for his service.
The latest California charges surfaced when two men came forward recently to claim that they had been sexually assaulted by Salazar-Jimenez during the early 1980s, Robison said.
Salazar-Jimenez was attending seminary sometime between 1980 and 1982 at St. John’s seminary in Los Angeles when he met a boy attending St. Bernard High School, where the molestation allegedly occurred, Robison said. The second man claimed Salazar-Jimenez molested him while he served as an altar boy at St. Teresita Church sometime between 1981 and 1983.
Robison said that if Salazar-Jimenez is convicted on both counts he could be sentenced to six years in prison.
Los Angeles officials began preparations for extraditing the former priest last week.
District Attorney Terry McEachern, who covers Swisher County, said he filed a fugitive warrant on Salazar-Jimenez on Monday based on the California charges. Salazar-Jimenez will be appointed an attorney and will appear in court within the next couple of weeks for extradition proceedings, unless he signs a waiver of extradition, McEachern said.