Former Yakima Priest Arrested on Rape Charge
A priest from the Tri-Cities with ties to Yakima has been arrested on an alleged rape charge. The Yakima Diocese reports 49-year-old Rev. Tomás Vázquez Téllez was taken into custody on Wednesday on charges of third-degree rape with an aggravating factor of being a person of trust. Yakima authorities say he's being held in the Benton County Jail facing charges in Benton County Superior Court.
The arrest follows a long investigation into allegations
His arrest comes after an investigation by the Kennewick Police Department "of an incident that occurred August 19-20 at a home the priest owns in the city." A press release from the Diocese says "Téllez was pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Kennewick before stepping down in April of 2020 for a sabbatical." He had been serving at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Pasco and was about to leave for Israel for a study program before his arrest.
The Diocese says he served as an associate pastor in Sunnyside for three years and also served one year at Holy Family in Yakima before serving at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Ellensburg from 2009-16.
The victim says she developed a friendship with the priest
According to the Diocese, a woman in her 30s told diocese officials "that she had been invited to Téllez’s home for dinner last month, a few weeks before he was set to travel to Jerusalem for the three-month study program."
The woman told authorities she had become friends with the priest and enjoyed lunches and dinners together. She says she was raped by the priest after the dinner with him last month. Authorities say she contacted another priest within hours of the incident to report the rape.
Téllez was ordered by the diocese to cease all public ministry and was prohibited from leaving the country during the investigation. He was arrested on Wednesday.
Reaction from the diocese in Yakima
“We are shocked and saddened by these developments,” Yakima Diocese Bishop Joseph J. Tyson said. “I am grateful that the woman came forward immediately and trusted another of our priests well enough to confide in him and to bring this matter to light.”
According to the diocese, "under church law Téllez is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and will receive salary and benefits from the diocese while he awaits a resolution of any criminal charges in court, but the church will not pay for his legal defense. He is also required to check in daily with another priest from the Diocese."