HANFORD– A priest accused of raping a 16-year-old girl who worked as a clerk in his parish will stand trial, a judge has ruled.
Miguel Flores, 34, is charged with three counts of forcible rape and dissuading a witness. If convicted of all charges, the priest could face up to 26 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Flores raped the girl in January at the St. Paul Church in Tranquillity and twice more in February at Hanford’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.
Hanford police investigator Bruce Blodgett told the court Tuesday about an incident on Feb. 16 when Flores allegedly grabbed the girl after she was finished with bookkeeping and pushed her into the bedroom quarter in the church residence.
Flores reportedly told the teen-age girl he had fallen in love with her and then raped her, Blodgett testified. He also said Flores threatened her, saying she would regret it if she told anybody what had happened.
Defense attorney Richard Conway questioned the girl’s credibility. Conway said she failed to tell police in the first interview about two other alleged rapes at the Tranquillity and Hanford churches.
Conway also wondered why the girl, if she had been raped, would follow Flores to the Hanford church after his transfer. Prosecutors said she was blackmailed into staying with Flores.
Flores is scheduled to be arraigned June 20 in Kings County Superior Court.
On Wednesday, police also searched the Truckee-area vacation property of Pinole resident Stephen Kiesle, a defrocked priest arrested in May on three counts of child molestation, for a possible connection to the widely publicized disappearance of Amber Swartz in 1988.
Kiesle lived on the same street as Amber, 7, in Pinole when she disappeared, said Pinole police Commander John Miner.