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Texas Seeking Accused Ex-O.C. Priest

Siegfried Widera faces 42 molestation counts. Despite a warning, he was hired by the Orange diocese in 1976 and worked there until 1986.

May 04, 2003|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

Texas authorities are searching for a former Orange County priest accused of 42 counts of child molestation, saying they believe he now lives in their state or across the border in Mexico.

Siegfried F. Widera, a priest working in the Diocese of Orange from 1976 to 1986, is one of the most wanted sex crime figures in the country, according to members of the West Texas Southwest Fugitive Task Force. He is facing charges in California and Wisconsin.

Widera, 62, has been spotted in west Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Chihuahua, Mexico.

"El Paso is literally 10 feet from the Mexican border," said El Paso County sheriff's office spokesman Rick Glancey.

"We suspect that he may be trying to conduct himself as a member of the clergy in some of the smaller villages in northern Mexico who are unaware of his past."

The task force is trying to spread the word and distribute Widera's photo, also broadcasting it on Mexican television.

"He's a serial child molester," Deputy U.S. Marshal Doug Bachert said in a prepared statement. "Wherever he is now, there are some unwitting families that have no idea what he is about."

Widera was ordained a Catholic priest in 1967 and stripped of his ability to function as a priest in 1986. In 1973, he was convicted of sexual misconduct with an adolescent boy in Milwaukee and sentenced to three years' probation.

He was accepted into the Orange diocese despite a warning letter from the Milwaukee's then-archbishop that Widera had a "moral problem having to do with a boy in school."

Anyone with information about Widera's whereabouts is asked to call the task force at (915) 534-6018 or (915) 546-2280. Information that leads to the arrest will lead to a cash reward. Callers may remain anonymous.

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