Friday, February 15, 2013

Los Angelas Pastor arrested for molesting young girls, then threatening to harm them if they told the police

A 77-year-old retired pastor allegedly molested three elementary school-age girls at his Torrance home and at his nearby church, threatening to harm them if they told anyone, police said Thursday.

Pedro Emilio Vallejos, who led the now-defunct Santuario de Oracion church at Prairie Avenue and 180th Street, was expected to appear for arraignment Friday at the Torrance courthouse. He will face multiple counts of child molestation, Torrance police Sgt. Robert Watt said. Jail records show Vallejos was held on $17.6 million bail following his arrest Tuesday afternoon.

Police opened an investigation in December when a school counselor told the county Department of Children and Family Services that a teenage girl had confided that Vallejos molested her on several occasions more than three years ago, Watt said. Detectives investigated and discovered two more victims, who told them that Vallejos fondled their private areas and performed other sex acts with them at the church and at his north Torrance home, Watt said.

Vallejos and his now-deceased wife started the Christian church in 1996 and operated it for several years. Another church now inhabits the property. Vallejos remarried.

Vallejos befriended the children's families and sometimes invited them to his home. The alleged crimes occurred over a two-year period. "He would tell them not to tell anyone or he would injure them," Watt said. Police suspect there might be more victims and asked anyone with information to call police detectives at 310-618-5571.

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