CONROE, Texas - A former Conroe priest appeared in court Monday for an initial arraignment. Last month, Manuel la Rosa Lopez was indicted on two of the four counts of sexual indecency with a child. The 60-year-old was arrested in September of 2018, after multiple people came forward, accusing him of sexually abusing them as children.
La Rosa Lopez's attorney, Wendell Odom, said the 61-year-old pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday.
His court appearance Monday relates to allegations by a female victim stemming back to April of 2000. The female said she was a teenager when La Rosa Lopez, a clergy member at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe began grooming her and eventually molested her. The female victim reported the abuse to investigators roughly 18 years later.
Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said a new court date was set for the discovery of 16,000 documents uncovered by investigators who executed search warrants at La Rosa Lopez's home, the Shalom Center in Splendora, and the Archdiocese of Houston-Galveston last year.
"The work is getting done behind the scenes. We’ll be in the process of turning over those documents to Mr. Odom, the defense attorney on behalf of Father La Rosa Lopez," Ligon said.
Representatives from SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, from other cities in Texas showed up to support the victim in court.
"We’re very encouraged by today’s hearing and we’re hopeful that this trial will bring forward more survivors and bring forward more justice for survivors in the state of Texas," said Carol Midboe of SNAP Austin.
Other survivors said they were encouraged by Monday's court hearing that justice is on the horizon.
"There are many people in my shoes that we’re not going to see justice because so many of us were abused as children. The statute of limitations are not helpful to us. So I’m very happy to support someone who is still able to do something about it," said Eduardo Lopez de Casas of SNAP Houston.
Ligon said a grand jury is now in the process of another indictment, related to accusations of another victim of La Rosa Lopez.
La Rosa Lopez is out on bond. He is due back in court in July.