July 07, 2005

Former Panhandle priest receives life sentence



Associated Press

A former Catholic priest in the Texas Panhandle was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for sexually assaulting a then-18-year-old parishioner after a wedding party in 2003.

John Salazar was sentenced under a law that imposes an automatic life term in cases where a person convicted of first-degree felony assault has already been convicted of a serious sex offense. Salazar was convicted twice in California in the 1980s for molesting boys and spent six years in prison.

Salazar, the former reverend at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Tulia, stood impassively as the sentence was read, The Dallas Morning News reported in its Thursday editions.

During the trial, Beau Villegas of Amarillo testified that Salazar assaulted him in the priest's hotel room in Irving. He said Salazar had offered to take care of him after he drank 10 beers and at least three mixed drinks at a wedding.

"Salazar's victims also suffer a life sentence ... to suffering and shame," Villegas said in court Wednesday while giving his victim impact statement after the sentence was imposed.

Posted by kshaw at July 7, 2005 07:36 AM