Tri-Cities Priest Arrested, Accused of Rape
(Kennewick, WA) -- A Catholic priest who's served in churches in both Kennewick and Pasco was taken into custody Tuesday, accused of Rape in the 3rd Degree after an incident at a home the priest owned in Kennewick. The Rev. Tomás Vázquez Téllez, 49 of the Yakima Diocese is now in the Benton County Jail after an investigation that began when Diocese officials say the victim, a woman said to be in her 30's, was at Tellez's residence August 19-20, originally for dinner.
The Victim Approached Church Officials After The Incident
Yakima Diocese officials say the victim requested a meeting with another priest after the alleged incident took place. Diocese of Yakima Chancellor Monsignor Robert M. Siler tells Newsradio 610 KONA they had a brief interview with the victim, afterwhich they advised her to call the police and undergo a medical examination. Both Tellez and the victim had been friends, but the victim had told Siler there was never any romantic overtures before this.
According to a statement from the Yakima Diocese, after the church began their own investigation, Bishop Joseph J, Tyson had ordered Tellez to cease all public ministry and prohibited him from leaving the country, as well as to have no contact with the woman who reported the alleged rape.
“We are shocked and saddened by these developments,” Bishop Tyson said. “I am grateful that the woman came forward immediately and trusted another of our priests well enough to confide in him and to bring this matter to light.”
Vazquez had served as pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Kennewick, before resigning in April 2020 for an educational sabbatical. He had been serving at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Pasco was about to leave for Israel for a study program.
On Paid Administrative Leave
Church officials say Tellez will continue to receive his salary and benefits, but the church will not pay for his legal defense.
Anyone with information about this matter is encouraged to contact the Kennewick Police Department, (509) 585-4208