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Choir director charged with
child molestation, child porn

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A 40-year-old Catholic church choir director has been arrested on allegations he molested a child and recorded child pornography.

Rafael Rojas-Lopez Garcia, a choir director at St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church, in Jonesboro, is facing five counts of child molestation; five counts of sexual exploitation of children; five counts of felony sexual battery, and five counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes. He reportedly rented a room from the family of the alleged victim, a 6-year-old Jonesboro boy.

He rented the room in the Jonesboro home and became "part of the family," according to a police report, after responding to an ad posted in a Hispanic grocery store two years ago. He ate dinner with the family, went on trips with them, and baby-sat the 6-year-old son, the boy's mother told police. He was baby-sitting last week, the boy's mother said, and when she came home at about 4:30 p.m., on Aug. 4, the boy and Garcia were in his bedroom with the door locked.

When the woman asked her son what he was doing in there, he allegedly said Garcia was taking pictures of him while he was naked. The child allegedly said the 40-year-old man was "kissing" him, according to the police report, filed by Officer M. Simonds.

When police responded to the family's home, they found Garcia in his bedroom, "furnished with a large variety of electronic equipment," including a laptop computer, two digital cameras and a web cam mounted on a tripod.

One camera's memory card was wiped clean, according to Simonds' police report, but the other camera had pictures of a naked man, from the neck down, and a naked child, from the neck down. Some of the pictures allegedly showed lewd poses.

When police went into the room, Garcia was watching "Schindler's List," on his computer. He admitted the boy had been in his room, earlier, but he said they were watching movies, nothing happened and he didn't touch the child.

Confronted with the pictures, Simonds wrote in the report, Garcia allegedly confessed.

Police said the ongoing investigation revealed child pornography recorded on five separate occasions. They said Wednesday they are asking other possible victims to come forward.

Officials at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, however, are "confident he didn't have access to children at the church," said spokeswoman Pat Chivers.

Garcia was a "contract employee," Chivers said, in charge of the Hispanic adult choir, at the Flint River Road church. He was responsible for leading the choir in one religious service a week, the 12:30 p.m., Sunday, Spanish-language mass.

"Of course, we're cooperating in every way with the police," Chivers said. "As far as we know, he did not have any contact with children at the church."

Garcia is being held without bond in the Clayton County Jail.