A Chihuahua priest who was convicted in February of aggravated sexual assault against an 8-year-old who served as an altar girl at his church was sentenced Tuesday to more than 34 years in prison.
Aristeo Trinidad Baca, 78, a suspended priest at the Santa María de la Montaña Parish Church in Ciudad Juárez, assaulted the girl between 2015–2018, the court found on February 22. The priest received multiple sentences, totaling 34 years, five months and 10 days, reflecting the fact that he had sexually assaulted the girl on at least three occasions.
Prosecutors said they were dissatisfied with the length of the sentence and would be pursuing action to advocate for more jail time for Baca. They also said they would try to increase the amount of financial restitution Baca was ordered to pay the victim, which currently stands at 59,129 pesos (US $2,800).
Baca’s defense team argued that the girl was lying about the assaults because her family had robbed Baca and had only made the accusations after the robbery was discovered.
The girl was frequently left alone with the priest on Sundays while her father helped out around the church. During her own testimony, the victim, now an adolescent, said Baca assaulted her in 2015 at the church’s parish hall after taking her to an ice cream social for children at a local orphanage he directed. In another incident in 2016, she said, he fondled her underneath some blankets just meters away from her unsuspecting parents while they all watched a film together.
The girl testified that the assaults made her uncomfortable and sad, but it was not until she reached the fifth grade — about two years after the initial assault — that she realized that was happening to her was wrong after she learned in a class that no one had the right to touch her body.
“I don’t just want that they throw him in jail,” she responded at one point to a prosecutor’s questions. “That’s not enough for me. I want him to die.”
About 20 witnesses provided testimony against Baca, including expert medical witnesses who said the girl showed psychological evidence of the assaults and that she would bear emotional consequences for the rest of her life.
The girl’s father told the court that after they reported the assaults, Baca asked for his forgiveness, saying that he had done “something stupid.”
“He taught us the Ten Commandments,” one of the victim’s sisters said in her testimony. “He said not to steal, and he stole our confidence from us. He said not to lie, and he lied to our entire family. He said not to kill, and he killed our faith.”
Baca is the first priest ever to be prosecuted for sexual abuse in Ciudad Juárez, according to the newspaper Milenio.