Former Conroe Priest Pleads Guilty to Molesting Children 20 Years Ago
On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, in the 435th District Court with Judge Patty Maginnis presiding, Manuel La Rosa-Lopez plead guilty to two charges of Indecency with a Child, a Second Degree Felony with a penalty range of probation up to 20 years in prison. The case was reset to December 16, 2020 at which time La Rosa-Lopez will be sentenced to 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections. The charges arise out of acts that took place approximately 20 years ago while La Rosa-Lopez was a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe, TX.
Law enforcement first became aware of La Rosa-Lopez’s crimes when two victims reported the abuse to Conroe Police Department in August and September of 2018. Detective Joe McGrew investigated the case, which led to the arrest of La Rosa-Lopez on September 11, 2018. Following his arrest, two additional victims stated that La Rosa abused them when they were children. All of the victims (ages 13 – 16) were heavily involved in the Catholic Church and considered La Rosa-Lopez to be their spiritual leader and mentor. They reported that La Rosa-Lopez violated their trust in him as a priest by kissing them, exposing himself to them, and touching them inappropriately on numerous occasions.
Conroe Police Department, with close cooperation from the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, launched an in-depth investigation into the claims. Law enforcement officers from Conroe PD, Texas Rangers, and several federal agencies assisted in executing several search warrants to obtain a large amount of evidence and documents. These search warrants included the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the Shalom Center, where La Rosa-Lopez was treated after one of the victims reported the abuse to the Archdiocese in 2001. Subsequently, La Rosa-Lopez was assigned to St. John Fisher Church in Richmond, TX, where he was a priest until his arrest in 2018.
Prosecutors Nancy Hebert and Wesley LeRouax shared, “We want to commend the bravery and strength of the victims who came forward and stood strong despite the spotlight this case has shined on their lives. Their steadfast desire to obtain justice after 20 years is inspiring. We also want to thank the law enforcement and District Attorney personnel who put in countless hours to collect and sort through a tremendous amount of evidence. This was a complete team effort.”
District Attorney Brett Ligon stated, “This is an important case. It’s important to our community, it’s important to these victims, and it’s important to the church. A wrong was committed, and it had to be made right. We were prepared to go to the ends of the earth to make it right, and, to the best of our ability, it has been made right. We hope that with time the wounds this man so selfishly created will heal and that even the scars will fade. Mr. La-Rosa despised everything we hold dear. He can now consider all the harm he’s caused from a prison cell.”
Source: Michael R. Holley, First Assistant District Attorney, Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office