Houston family runs into roadblock to hold former church member accountable for alleged child abuse

La Luz Del Mundo hasn't returned ABC13's phone calls regarding the incidents, as of Friday evening.

Erica Simon Image
Saturday, April 8, 2023
Family accuses church of being complacent over alleged child abuse
La Luz Del Mundo, the landmark megachurch just off US-59 in northeast Houston, is being accused by former members of covering up another member's abuse of a young congregant.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A teen is speaking out about alleged abuse she experienced at a well-known megachurch in Houston: La Luz Del Mundo off the Eastex Freeway.

A protest was held in front of the church last weekend to rally around the teen and call for more potential victims to come forward.

The name of the church means "light of the world" in Spanish, but 15-year-old Hannah and her family say the congregation is the opposite and people they trusted led them down a dark path.

The allegations of sexual abuse are against a former member who's no longer in the United States, but there's a fight to bring him back and hold him accountable for years of alleged abuse.

"It just breaks my heart. You trust people. You put your trust in your family, because you think you're going to be safe," Judith Castillo said.

It hurts Castillo to talk about what her daughter Hannah told her back in 2020. Hannah said she was sexually abused by Juan Gabriel Perez when she was 6 to 10 years old.

"We were exposing her and did not know it," Castillo said.

Perez wasn't in leadership at La Luz Del Mundo, but Castillo said Perez was an active member who the church called on for painting and carpentry work.

Hannah was reportedly around him all the time at festivals, Sunday school, family gatherings, and other church events.

Sadly, the story doesn't stop there. Others claim Perez also took advantage of them. In 2017, he was charged with indecency with a child. He made a deal to be on probation for seven years, but according to Castillo's attorney, he took off to Acapulco, Mexico, shortly after that. That case was never resolved, as a result.

SEE ALSO: Man, 38, wanted for more than a year in alleged sexual assault of a child under 14

"Because he's not here, they were never able to bring him in front of court to finalize that, but in the eyes of us, by him fleeing, we believe he represents a danger to the people of Mexico, to the children." attorney Carlos Doroteo said.

A continuous sexual abuse of a child charge was filed on Hannah's behalf last month after a two-year investigation by the Harris County Sheriff's and District Attorney's offices.

A rally was held in front of La Luz Del Mundo to bring awareness to Hannah's case and other abuse that activists say has been covered up and going on for years. Castillo said she too was victimized by a different member when she was growing up.

"For them to manipulate me so many years - and it wasn't until it hurt someone I really loved, which is my daughter - that was the wakening call. For them to neglect my daughter's cries. That was for me to wake up. They've hurt you so many years, now they're hurting you so many years. Now it's time to do justice for yourself and justice for my daughter," Castillo tearfully said.

Eyewitness News called the church to see if it had a comment, but the line was busy. ABC13 also called the church attorney but got no answer.

Doroteo says they are in the early stage of trying to get Perez extradited back to the United States, but obviously, that has to go through a number of law enforcement channels first, both here and in Mexico, and possibly the U.S. State Department.

If you or someone you know may have been a victim of Perez, you're asked to contact the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

SEE ALSO: Private school's former teacher charged with child sex abuse nearly 2 decades later

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