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Police seize Santa Fe archdiocese files in molestation case

SANTA FE — The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office has seized personnel files from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for a Santa Fe Catholic school teacher who is accused of making sexual contact with five young girls at the school, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in District Court.

Deputies seized personnel documents for Aaron Dean Chavez, who is facing five counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor, from the archdiocese’s facility in Albuquerque as well as from the school. A thumb drive, several memory cards, a laptop, and a Santo Niño Regional Catholic School employee handbook were also taken.

Chavez, 47, an art teacher at the school, is facing five counts of sexual criminal contact for inappropriately touching five young girls at Santo Niño as far back as 2007. He was arrested last month after a 6-year-old girl told her parents that Chavez reached inside her pants and touched her buttocks and genitals while tucking in her shirt during a Jan. 8 art class. After Chavez’s initial arrest, four more girls came forward — two now 14 years old and two 8 years old — and said Chavez inappropriately touched them several times.

The two 14-year-olds told deputies that they reported Chavez to Santo Niño principal Theresa Vaisa in 2012 and said Chavez touched their buttocks while bouncing them on his lap while they were in his first grade class in 2007, but Chavez stayed on the job. A mother of one of the victims told deputies she reported the incident to State Police because neither the school or the archdiocese took any action, according to the affidavit. State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said last week that an internal investigation has been launched into why no charges were filed against Chavez in 2012.

Vaisa told deputies in a Jan. 20 interview that there were no complaints documented in Chavez’s file regarding the 2012 allegations. Deputies assert in the affidavit that the allegations should have been placed in Chavez’s file.

SFCSO spokesman Juan Rios didn’t give any updates Monday on the information contained in those files, saying the investigation is still active.