JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – A three-judge panel has found a Juarez Catholic priest guilty of sexually abusing an altar girl when she was 8 years old, Chihuahua state officials said.

The judges on Monday afternoon convicted the Rev. Aristeo Baca of two counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of aggravated sexual abuse. The abuse allegedly took place inside the Santa Maria de la Montana parish in South Juarez between December 2015 and January 2018, the state Attorney General’s Office said.

Aristeo Baca

The investigation began when the girl’s parents called police after their daughter refused to go back to the church in early 2019. Police psychologists and medical personnel determined the girl had suffered sexual assault, the AG’s Office said in a statement.

Baca denied the charges, although prosecutor alleged he once asked forgiveness from the girl’s father.

“The evidence presented during the trial shows the accused broke the trust and took advantage of the access he had to the victim,” the AG’s Office said.

The same three-judge panel that found him guilty will sentence Baca on March 1. He faces up to 80 years in prison.

Several supporters of Baca showed up outside the courtroom throughout the trial with signs proclaiming he was innocent. However, women’s rights groups such as Red Mesa de Mujeres celebrated his conviction.

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