Priest-in-training seeks sex with infants: An Ohio man studying to be a priest was arrested in San Diego last week, accused of trying to pay to rape a 1-year-old baby and a 4-year-old girl in Tijuana, Mexico.
Joel Wright, a 23-year-old priest-in-training at Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, flew across the United States on Friday with plans to travel to Mexico to have sex with at least three babies, NBC San Diego reports.
Wright was taken into federal custody by special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) outside of baggage claim at the San Diego International Airport. He is charged with traveling with the intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor and attempting to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country, both felonies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California said.
The arrest follows a months-long undercover child sexual exploitation investigation conducted by special agents in San Diego. Federal authorities were tipped off about Wright in November 2015 from a Tijuana, Mexico, resident who had responded to an advertisement on Craigslist soliciting the adoption of infants.
Undercover agents took over the informant’s email account in December 2015 with his consent and began communicating with Wright. During the email exchanges, the accused said he wanted to adopt or purchase baby girl under the age of 3, have sex with her and film it, officials said.
When asked by the undercover agents via email if he had sexual experience with infants, the complaint states Wright wrote:
I have not gone all the way before but I have made it very close in the past so I do have experience.
In January Wright wrote again, allegedly adding:
Virgin babies are the best.
In another correspondence Wright wrote:
Yes, I like church – it makes me feel good.
Documents state Wright also planned on giving the one to three-year-old kids Tylenol and candy “to relax them” before he raped them.
Dave Shaw, special agent in charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego, said in a statement:
Pedophiles who mistakenly believe they can escape justice by committing child sex crimes outside the U.S. should be on notice that HSI will seek to vindicate the rights of those victims regardless of where they live. Fortunately, in this instance, our perseverance and diligence prevented the sexual exploitation of yet another innocent victim.
Wright was studying to become a Roman Catholic priest at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. The Rev. John Allen, vice president of the college, said:
We’re both shocked and saddened to learn of his involvement in such reprehensible allegations.
Wright was expelled from the seminary on Friday morning because he had left school without permission, Rev. Allen said.
The accused made his first court appearance on Monday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. He did not enter a plea and remained in custody, said Kelly Thornton, a spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in San Diego.
A preliminary hearing in the case was scheduled for Feb. 11.