[Police Blotter] Searching for a boy’s killer
MichaelLezay was only 15 years old, a Latino boy far from neither home norschool. He was fatally shot on a Saturday night. Crime was rampant 10years ago in Echo Park, but Lezay’s July 21 death from a single gunshotwound marks the first homicide in the area this year.
Tuesdayafternoon, the LAPD’s Northeast Division held a news conference to jogmemories of the month-old killing. Lezay’s parents were there, askingpainfully for information; the detectives were there, sitting patientlyin their dark suits; and Councilman Eric Garcetti was there, havingsummoned up $25,000 for anyone who could keep Lezay’s death frombecoming another unsolved case.
Garcetti, his eyes pink-tinged as he delivered a short ad-hoc speech,seemed personally involved. “Michael Lezay was a neighbor of mine,” hesaid. “We came upon this murder a couple minutes after it occurred,and, ever since, my council office has worked very hard to talk to thecommunity to try and find out any information.”
The councilman introduced the boy’s father, John Lezay. He was alsovisibly shaken, with salt and pepper combed-back hair, a wide jawline,and a deep, gravelly voice that occasionally broke. He didn’t expectthe city to be so cooperative, but he was still frustrated. He calledhis son’s killing a “senseless tragedy.” “This is really, trulyunexpected,” he said. His wife, standing to his right, declined toanswer questions.
A picture of the boy rested on an easel like it would at a funeral. Hewas grinning so broadly, his eyes were reduced to slits. He head wasshaved, and he wore an oversized black T-shirt. In another photo, theone centering the reward poster, he’s wearing a gray sweatshirt with aRaiders logo. With palm trees behind him, he stares proudly down at thelens, looking purposefully intimidating.
The two detectives assigned to the case did not speak at the pressconference. In a phone interview last Thursday with CityBeat, DetectiveGil Carrillo said the crime did not involve local gangs. He noted,simply, that a gang would have “no reason to retaliate.”
To John Lezay, Michael was just “a regular teenager” who enjoyedplaying basketball and had taken up boxing. During the school year, hewas home when he was supposed to be, before sunset. “He was just youraverage teenager: very calm, very, very loving.”
Garcetti echoed that fatherly sentiment. “This young man, with suchpromise ahead of him, who wasn’t yet 16, was shot. He was a son of EchoPark and a son of Los Angeles. This is unacceptable. We must be able tosolve this case.”
Anyone with information can call Detective Carrillo at (213) 847-4261.
[Catholic Church Scandal]Unpriestly acts prompt more calls for action
Documentsreleased by the Los Angeles archdiocese this week shine more light oncover-ups by high-ranking church officials to protect priests accusedof sexual abuse from prosecution. The documents pertain to former LosAngeles priest Nicholas Aguilar Rivera, a Mexican national who in 1987was accused of molesting 26 boys in Los Angeles, narrowly escapedprosecution by fleeing the country.
Mary Grant, spokesperson forthe Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a nationalsupport group for victims of clergy sexual abuse, demanded thatCardinal Roger Mahoney suspend Bishop Thomas Curry because hefacilitated Aguilar’s escape and let him avoid prosecution in theUnited States.
“At least twice, Bishop Curry has helped pedophile priests evadejustice,” said Grant, who alleges that Curry took active steps to hideAguilar from police.
Accompanied by the sounds of ringing church bells and mid-day traffic,SNAP presented the documents at a press conference Tuesday in front ofthe Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Highlighted, was a letterdated Jan 11, 1988, written by Curry, which shows how he was aware ofat least two molestation accusations made against Aguilar but waitedtwo days to contact police investigators.
Curry’s letter was addressed to the
Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera, who then was Bishop of Tehuacan,the area were Aguilar had requested a transfer to. Bishop Curryacknowledges that he knew Aguilar was accused of “very inappropriatebehavior to children” and also the suspected pedophile’s intentions toflee the country.
Two days before the police were notified and an investigation launched,Curry confronted Aguilar about the charges and suspended him from theArchdiocese. According to a February 20, 1987, Los Angeles Timesreport, church officials also stalled the police investigation byrefusing to provide a list of altar boys at Our Lady of Guadalupe, theEast Los Angeles parish where Aguilar worked two months, beforetransferring to St: Agatha in South Central Los Angeles.
While working in the East Los Angeles and South Central parishes during1987, Aguilar, 62, molested at least 26 altar boys, according tocriminal charges filed by police. Aguilar managed to escape thosecharges but was charged again in 1994 by the mother of then 12-year-oldJoaquin Aguilar Mendez, who accused the priest of raping him.
In January, Aguilar was still listed as a priest in the Diocese ofTehuacan. Today, he faces a pending civil lawsuit filed last Septemberin Los Angeles Superior Court by Mendez. Church officials are fightingthe current lawsuit, arguing that U.S court should have no jurisdictionover Mexican church officials.
“(The church) is doing little if anything to help Aguilar’s victims andto protect vulnerable families, except fighting in court to say ‘weshouldn’t be held accountable,’” said David Clohessy, National directorof SNAP.
Since Aguilar fled the country before being prosecuted, the usual threeyear period for filing sexual abuse cases can be extended should thecourt decide so.
But new prosecution remains an
uncertain outcome. Said Clohessy, “We
believe that the main obstacle to prosecution is not any lack ofvictims, witnesses or evidence. The main obstacle is a lack of courageon the part of government
for a listing of alternate locations.