Fresno priest arrested, accused of sexual abuse

News

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer and Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp announced the arrest of Jesus Antonio Serna, 51, Fresno  Monday afternoon. 

Serna, a former Fresno Anglican church priest is accused of sexual abuse against church members. 

“What we have learned is that Serna has preyed on undocumented males and perhaps a undocumented female knowing they’d be reluctant to report this to the police, Dyer said. 

Serna served from 2008 until 2017 at Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe church located on East Dakota. 

According to the Diocese of San Joaquin, Serna was commonly known as Father Antonio Castaneda joined the dioceses in 2008 as the vicar of the church.

According to the news release, Bishop Eric Menees received credible accusations in October 2017 that Serna had committted sexual misconduct against adults in the diocese.

One month after the bishop learned about the allegations, Serna  consented to deposed from his priest duties. 

Fresno police investigators were made aware of the allegations in October 2017 but the victim was not ready to come forward.

On January 2018, the victim finally reported the sexual allegation to police. 

A 13 month investigation revealed there was a total of at least 22 people who were victimized by Serna, and possibly one of them could be a undocumented woman. 

“Serna would than place oil on his hands or on the victims body and according to Serna, he would than rub this sacred oil on the victims body from head to toe,” Dyer said. 

The district attorney’s office filed multiple counts of sexual battery, battery and attempted sexual battery. 

Investigators said three victims, ages 54, 45, and 43 have spoken to police and given statements. 

“There are 19 other people that have reported sexual misconduct to their church officials. However if they do not come forward and speak to the police department and if they do not come forward to report we can not prosecute this person for the heinous crimes that we believe he has committed,” Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said. 

Smittcamp said Serna could face up to 11 years behind bars if he’s found guilty on the charges.

The Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin said they made pastoral and clinical counseling available to all victims who have already, or may still come forward. 

According to news release , the diocese said they’re  committed to the physical safety, mental health, and emotional and spiritual well-being of all our members.” 

Serna was booked into the Fresno County jail but has since posted bail. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.