Sacto 9-1-1
December 1, 2011
UPDATE: Priest booked into Sacramento jail on suspicion of child molestation

uriel_ojeda.jpgBy Loretta Kalb and Bill Lindelof
lkalb@sacbee.com

The Rev. Uriel Ojeda, a young priest lauded for his work in the community and for his aid to the poor, faces arraignment Friday in a Sacramento courtroom on multiple counts of molesting a 14-year-old girl.

The 32-year-old priest surrendered to authorities Wednesday night after members of the Diocese traveled to Redding and brought him back to Sacramento.

He is being held in the county jail in lieu of $5 million bail.

The Diocese announced the charges today and said Ojeda has been placed on paid administrative leave, meaning he may perform none of the duties of an ordained Catholic priest.

Bishop Jaime Soto, head of the Sacramento Diocese, told reporters that the church received the complaint of the alleged molestations on Tuesday night from a member of the child's family and, within the hour, contacted county Child Protective Services and county prosecutors.

He said the Diocese is giving its full cooperation to law enforcement authorities.

But he called the case disheartening.

"For people who work very very hard to earn trust, it takes our breath away," Soto said at a news conference. "It's devastating."

Ojeda, 32, was assigned to Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Redding from July 1, 2009, until Wednesday.

Ojeda was assigned to Holy Rosary Parish in Woodland about a month after his June 29, 2007, ordination. He remained in Woodland until his transfer to the Redding parish.

He is one of the youngest priests in the diocese. His youth is evident in his wearing of Converse tennis shoes, love of Spider-Man comics and bass-playing in a church band.

It was at Woodland's Holy Rosary, one of the largest churches in the diocese, that he became known for his involvement in the community. He also offered free guitar and drum lessons to parishioners, even buying instruments for needy congregation members.

Soto said word of the case will be shared with communities in Woodland and Redding and that other possible victims are encouraged to come forward.

"I have personally spoken to the family involved," Soto said. "They are in great pain. What they endured has been difficult. I grieve for what they have suffered and what they are suffering.

"Yet, I also admire the courage with which they have come forward to bring this to my attention so that we can bring this to the attention of authorities."

Photo caption: Father Uriel Ojeda meets with members of the community at his parish in Woodand on May 22, 2009. Photo by Lezlie Sterling / lsterling@sacbee.com

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