'Please move': Victim says she begged Conroe priest to leave before alleged sex assault

SUGAR LAND, Texas (KTRK) -- Inside St. Theresa Catholic Church, tucked away in a Sugar Land neighborhood off Highway 90, a kitchen cook said she was assaulted by Father Manuel La Rosa Lopez.

"I think he would have tried it with anybody he thought was going to be easy prey," said the victim, who wished to remain anonymous.

READER DISCRETION ADVISED: Some of the details in this interview may be hard to listen to.

The woman, who no longer works at the church, agreed to speak with ABC13 after her allegation against the priest was released in court records last week. That submission is now sealed.

READ MORE: Conroe priest suggested trade of sexual favors with another priest, new court records say

She worked at the church from 2009 to 2013 and said the assault happened sometime during those years. She does not recall the exact date. The victim said La Rosa Lopez was invited to join clergy bible studies and lunch at St. Theresa Catholic Church. And for months, she said La Rosa Lopez would leave the meetings early and harass her in the kitchen where she worked alone

"He would come in and say, 'So you're the maid?' and I said, 'I'm the cook,'" recalled the victim. "He'd say, 'Yeah. That's what I meant, maid!'"

On the day of the alleged assault, the victim said she was folding towels in a bedroom attached to the kitchen when she said La Rosa Lopez walked in.

"He says, 'You know, we need to talk,'" she said. "I said, 'I don't think so,' and I was still folding, and then he comes to the edge of the bed and I panicked. So, I crawled over the bed to hit the door."

That's where she said he cornered her in the room.

"He wouldn't let me out of the door, and I said, 'Please move, priests are going to be here in a minute,' and that's when he touched me," recalled the victim. "He had his hands on my breasts and then he went down to my crotch."

She said the assault only ended when another priest opened a door and sounded a bell. She remembers serving lunch that day and said she cried alone in the kitchen because she was too afraid to tell her priest.

"I didn't tell him what he did. I was too embarrassed," she said. "How do you tell your boss, a man of the cloth, that another man of the cloth touched you in that way?"

The victim tried to quit the very day it happened by telling her priest she refused to work if La Rosa Lopez would continue to be a guest. Her priest begged her to stay, and she said he banned La Rosa Lopez from the kitchen area.

"I never saw him again until I saw his mugshot on the TV, and I said, 'Hooray!'"

After his arrest in September 2018, someone from the church notified Sugar Land Police of her assault, but she said it was mistakenly reported as a rape.

This victim said she never wanted to get police involved and never intended to go public, but now, she is hoping her story will help the prosecution. La Rosa Lopez is currently scheduled for trial in February 2020 on five counts of child sex assault against three victims.

ABC13 reached out to his defense attorney, Wendell Odom, regarding this new accusation and did not receive a response.

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