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Ex-NM priest charged with raping child

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Authorities on Friday captured a former Archdiocese of Santa Fe priest accused of raping a first-grader decades ago at a church in northern New Mexico and telling the boy, “This is how we show God’s love.”

Agents with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and New Mexico State Police arrested 81-year-old Marvin Archuleta at the Sun Village apartments, southwest of the Big I, around 4 p.m.

Plainclothes officers helped a frail Archuleta, clad in sweat pants and a gray sweater, into a State Police vehicle in the Sun Village parking lot as college students, other residents of the complex and reporters gathered nearby. As the truck pulled away, Archuleta, sitting in the backseat behind a caged window, pulled his sweater over his face.

He was later booked into the Santa Fe County Detention Center.

Archuleta – who had previously fled to Mexico after allegations of abuse surfaced in the 1990s – is charged with criminal sexual penetration of a child under 13 and kidnapping in the rape of a 6-year-old boy in the 1980s at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Santa Cruz, near Española. Both charges are first-degree felonies and therefore have no statute of limitations to hinder prosecution, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

David Carl, a spokesman for the AG’s office, said Archuleta is the first priest to be arrested on state charges after a nearly three-year AG investigation into sexual abuse of children by members of the Catholic Church around New Mexico.

Carl said the investigation is ongoing, and he wouldn’t rule out the potential for other charges to be filed against Archuleta or other suspects.

Friday’s arrest comes after a lawsuit was filed against Archuleta, the archdiocese and others in October alleging that the victim dealt with mental and emotional anguish, eventually falling into drug and alcohol abuse because of the rape.

Archuleta’s arrest is the latest chapter in a statewide sex abuse scandal that has spanned decades and embroiled the Santa Fe Archdiocese in controversy.

“Cases of child sexual abuse by church officials have become widespread across the United States as victims are now speaking up,” the Attorney General’s Office says in a criminal complaint filed in Santa Fe Magistrate Court on Friday. “… It has since been discovered that the church’s highest-ranking officials contributed to helping contain the known abuse and handle the atrocities internally.”

According to the complaint, the rape occurred in 1986 or 1987. The victim and two other boys were pulled out of class at Holy Cross Catholic School by older students who the victim believed to be altar boys, the complaint alleges.

Agents say the three were led to a room where Archuleta and another priest, who is not identified in the complaint, offered them cookies and punch.

The victim told agents the boys ate the treats before the unnamed priest took the other two away and left him alone with Archuleta.

The complaint alleges that Archuleta then made the boy kneel on a chair, removed the boy’s pants and wrapped a belt around his chest so he couldn’t move. According to the complaint, Archuleta poured a cup of water down the boy’s back, telling him it was “holy water and would help with the pain.” The victim told agents that Archuleta then raped him as he repeated, “This is God’s love; this is how we show God’s love.”

“He was in tremendous pain and was crying violently,” an agent wrote. “He is unsure how long the encounter lasted.”

Agents say that after the ordeal, the unnamed priest brought the other two boys, who were “crying uncontrollably,” into the room and all three were sent back to class.

The AG’s Office executed a search warrant on the archdiocese last November and found a file that referenced Archuleta and victims he had allegedly sexually assaulted.

Other documents were found that revealed that Archuleta had been “credibly accused” of such abuse earlier at the Santa Cruz parish, with those victims alleging that the priest preyed on and sexually assaulted them when they were altar boys. One of the victims claimed that the abuse happened inside the church while Archuleta wore his priest vestments.

At some point in the mid-1990s, Archuleta was notified of the allegations against him, and he fled to Mexico, according to the complaint. Some of the civil claims against Archuleta related to the abuse were settled while the priest was believed to be in Mexico.

“It is unknown when Archuleta returned from Mexico to the United States,” an agent wrote.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

But after the lawsuit over this case was filed, the archdiocese said in a statement that it “continues to be vigilant regarding sexual misconduct and stands firm on its zero tolerance policy. We pray for all who have been victims of the sad reality of sexual abuse.”

Archuleta was ordained in 1970 and was immediately assigned to the Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz, according to the affidavit. Agents say he served as a Catholic priest with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe from 1970 to 1978 and again from 1987 to 1994.

Archuleta’s arrest comes five months after federal agents extradited former Kirtland Air Force Base chaplain Arthur Perrault from Morocco and charged him with six counts of federal aggravated sexual abuse and one count of sexual contact in the molestation of an 11-year-old boy in the early ’90s. Perrault pleaded not guilty to all counts.

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