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Man Accused of Inappropriately Touching Women at Church Services

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CERES --

An area meant for worship and prayer turned into a crime scene on Easter.

Francisco Villanueva is accused of touching not one but three women, between the ages of 25 and 40, inappropriately during different services at St. Jude's Roman Catholic Church in Ceres.

The three incidents happened throughout the last few months, the most recent one being on Sunday.

Easter mass was interrupted by Villanueva after he allegedly touched a church member's thigh. She told investigators it happened more than once.

The Ceres Police Department said when they confronted Villanueva two other women came forward with similar allegations.

"The individual touched them on the thigh, one female reported being touched on the buttocks area," said Lt. Chris Perry.

The 54-year-old was cited, arrested and released. He's facing three charges of misdemeanor sexual battery. The department said church officials told officers they don't want Villanueva back in the area.

"It's hard to believe something like that would happen, it's unfortunate these things do happen," said Terri Purto who worships at St. Jude's.

The office manager told FOX40 she doesn't want members to be scared to worship at the church. Ceres PD said it is an isolated incident.