Former priest pleads to molestation charge

CLEVELAND (WJW) — A former priest accused of molesting a 15-year-old girl with cancer while performing a “blessing” pleaded guilty before his scheduled trial on Tuesday.

Luis J. Barajas, 76, a Colombian national, was indicted in November on six counts of gross sexual imposition in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to one of those counts, according to county prosecutors.

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In October, he went to a Westlake home to pray with a 15-year-old girl who had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy, according to Westlake police.

Police said Barajas touched the girl inappropriately during the blessing and used a blanket to cover up the assault.

Authorities said Barajas was ordained in 1982, and that he was accused of sexual misconduct against juveniles in the Catholic diocese in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1989. He was then sent back to Colombia, according to investigators.

He is believed to have been removed from the priesthood after that.

But he was arrested again in 2019 on a felony count of misconduct with a minor, according to police.

“He had been ‘acting in the capacity of trusted family friend and as church clergy’ at that time as well,” Westlake police Capt. Gerald Vogel wrote.

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Barajas had been staying with local families in Lorain County for months, “performing spiritual ceremonies to the nearby Spanish-speaking population,” according to Westlake police.

Investigators arrested Barajas in October at the Elyria home where he had been staying.

He’s due for sentencing on Feb. 27.

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