By Jen Kastner
MIDLAND- On Tuesday, church leaders in Midland came together to start learning what they can do to make sure child sex abuse no longer happens inside their churches.
Gregory Love is a lawyer specializing in child sexual abuse. He thinks the rate of abuse in churches is going up. "I think it's probably growing. I think just generally we find that the protective barriers in our churches are lower than other places. I think, unfortunately, sexual predators know that," Love said.
Even organizer Hank Henry says, "The assumption is that [when] you're in church, you're in a safe environment. People are in there for a reason, which is to worship."
Last Friday, NewsWest 9 first reported that 26 year-old William Velasquez confessed to performing oral sex on a boy who is only six years old. He reported it took place inside St. Stephen's Catholic Church in Midland.
The Diocese tells NewsWest 9, the man would occasionally stepped in as an altar server, which is essentially an altar boy, but only when the help was needed. They say he is not a registered member of the church. An investigation is underway.
Currently, Velasquez is locked up at the Midland Detention Center. He is being held on a $100,000 bond.
NewsWest 9 requested a jailhouse interview but it was denied.
Since NewsWest 9 first reported this story, we've learned that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is looking into Velasquez's citizenship status. There is a chance he is an illegal immigrant.
How that could affect further court proceedings or a possible sentencing, we don't know yet. Midland Police Department was unable to grant NewsWest 9 an interview.
On Tuesday, NewsWest 9 was issued a statement by the Velasquez's grandmother. She says, "My heart is broken for the child and his family in this matter and I grieve for them, as well as my grandson. It is my sincere hope that you in the media will leave that family alone, as well as mine, to permit all of us to have a peaceful period of respite as we all struggle to come to an understanding in this matter."
Velasquez's attorney declined to comment.
Gregory Love says there's often a detailed grooming process a predator uses to victimize a child, starting off with gaining access to kids, then selecting a child, followed by introducing nudity and sexual touch, and, finally, keeping the child silent through tactics like shame and secrecy.