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The victim, Avendaños, left, and Bautista. The victim, Avendaños, left, and Bautista.

Priest sentenced to 27 years for homicide of deacon

The 29-year-old victim was tortured and then asphyxiated

A criminal court has sentenced Catholic priest Francisco Javier Bautista Ávalos to 27 years and six months in prison for the murder of Leonardo Avendaño, whose body was found in the Tlalpan borough of Mexico City on June 12, 2019.

The prison sentence will be served without options for early release. The court also ordered a fine of more than 400,000 pesos (US $19,850).

The former parish priest was found guilty of murder on Tuesday. The family had asked for the maximum sentence of 50 years.

Avendaño was reported missing on June 11, 2019, a day before his body was found in the back of a pickup truck in Tlalpan. The body showed signs of torture and asphyxiation. Bautista was detained a week later after having conducted the victim’s funeral service.

Video footage showed that he met with the 29-year-old deacon the night of his murder. Shortly after Avendaño’s death, his family said he was murdered to prevent him from going public with unspecified accusations against Bautista.

Initially, many parishioners supported Bautista. An online petition gathered more than 6,000 signatures in his support. Some early reports suggested that the murder may have been an accident in the course of a sex game. Josué Avendaño, the victim’s brother, emphatically rejected those claims.

“My brother was tortured. [His injuries] weren’t from a game or anything like that. It was something that was planned in advance. My brother was tortured, and then, after that, the cause [of death] was asphyxiation,” he said. He added that the body was badly bruised with a broken nose and some missing teeth.

After the sentencing, the victim’s brother said he was satisfied with outcome.

“I would have liked the maximum penalty but having justice served is more than enough.”

Source: Milenio (sp)

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