Church Volunteer Accused of Having Sex with Underage Girl

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YUBA CITY --

The St. Isidore church community in Yuba City returned to prayer Sunday after Hermenegildo Huizar-Vera, one of its active members, was arrested for alleged sexual crimes against a minor.

According to church officials, the victim was not a member of the church, but church leaders decided to address the congregation to both inform them of the arrest and to find out if anyone had ever heard of or witnessed inappropriate behavior from Huizar-Vera in the past.

The 51-year-old served as a volunteer choir director and taught music lessons to children at the church.

Yuba County officials charged Huizar-Vera with sexual crimes while he was already behind bars at Yuba County Jail for similar allegations in Arizona. He was arrested March 24 by U.S. Marshals and was to be extradited to Pima County, Arizona. Then the 16-year-old victim told investigators she had had sex with Huizar-Vera on multiple occasions in Yuba County.

"I never heard of an incident like this happening before," said Rosalia Gonzales, a lifelong St. Isidore parishioner.

Gonzales was baptized at the church and now brings her two young daughters. As a mother, she says the news was hard to accept.

"I'm very concerned about it. I wasn't aware of it. With my kids and stuff, I can't believe it," said Gonzales.

Huizar-Vera allegedly began having sex with the victim repeatedly when she was 14. He lived with the girl and her mother in Yuba County, according to investigators.

Investigators say at one point Huizar-Vera followed her to Arizona and had sex with her there at a motel. He's now facing charges in both states.

No one answered the door at the home where he was arrested. Huizar-Vera said "no" to our interview request at the Yuba County Jail.

"I didn't see him like that, at the beginning. I didn't see him to be a man like that," said Ivan Ferreyra Chavez, a St. Isidore parishioner.

The announcement was met with disappointment, prayers for the victim and hopes for redemption for Huizar-Vera himself.

"Hopefully it works out for him. We're praying for his family," said Chavez.

Yuba County law enforcement officials say the charges Huizar-Vera faces in California will be handled first before any extradition to Arizona. He will go through the legal process in Yuba County, which could take a matter of months if not years, when taking into account potential prison time.