Hunt Is On for Ex-Priest Charged in Abuse Cases

Times Staff Writer

A defrocked Roman Catholic priest was charged Tuesday with molesting two teenage altar boys after allegedly plying them with alcohol, cash and pornographic movies while he served parishes in Coachella and Perris in the 1980s.

Jesus “Father Jesse” Armando Dominguez, 55, allegedly abused the boys over a four-year period and faces 58 counts of sexual abuse. Dominguez was registered as a sex offender in 2001 when he was convicted of trying to take nude pictures of a 15-year-old boy from La Mirada.

Authorities believe the former priest has fled to Mexico, where he may have relatives.


“We’re looking for him, working with all authorities, including Mexico,” said Sgt. Earl Quinata, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department spokesman. “We’re putting as many resources as possible into this. Based upon his offenses, he’s a priority for us.”

Ordained as a priest in 1983, Dominguez took an extended personal leave in 1993 and was formally removed from the priesthood in 2000 after serving at churches in Coachella, Perris and Chino, said Father Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the San Bernardino Diocese, which oversees those cities.

“We strongly condemn ... and deeply regret ... the acts set forth in the complaint,” Lincoln said. “It is reprehensible conduct.”

In court documents released Tuesday, the two alleged victims said they were teenage altar boys serving at Our Lady of Soledad Catholic Church in Coachella when they met the priest in 1985.

A 33-year-old man told authorities that Dominguez tried to befriend young boys at the church by giving them beer and money.

He said Dominguez later showed him pornographic movies and magazines, and asked the boy to have sex with him in the priest’s church residence, Det. John Wyatt wrote in an arrest declaration.


“This is about as egregious and aggravated as a case like this can be,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Morgan Gire said. “You have a man to be trusted above all others abusing that trust for his own perverted sexual desires. It’s quite saddening.”

When Dominguez was transferred to St. James Catholic Church in Perris in 1987, the alleged victim said, he would be picked up by Dominguez in Coachella and spend the night with the priest at the Perris church once a month for about two years.

A second alleged victim, 32, was a friend of the first boy and also traveled to Perris, engaging in oral copulation and intercourse with both, according to court records.

Gire said Dominguez was able to spend a lot of time with the boys.

“He was friends with these children and their families. In those days, before all of these [priest sex abuse] scandals hit, the priests were seen as good role models, as people living a virtuous life,” he said.

According to court records, Dominguez later invited one of the boys to the priest’s parents’ home in Los Angeles for an overnight visit, and molested the boy in a bedroom.

“We think there are more victims in [Dominguez’s] past, and we urge them to come forward,” Gire said.

A letter written by San Bernardino Bishop Gerald R. Barnes will be read this week at all parishes at which Dominguez served, alerting parishioners of the charges and urging anyone involved to “come forward and begin the healing process,” Lincoln said.