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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Former Priest Who Faced Sex Crime Charges Killed in Mexico

Aired May 28, 2003 - 19:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the story of Siegfried Widera, a man called by U.S. marshals as -- quote "one of the most wanted sex crime fugitives in the Western Hemisphere." A former priest, he was wanted to 42 counts of child molestation. He fled the U.S. in May of 2002 after he was charged by Milwaukee authorities.
The U.S. marshals sent investigators to Europe to the Caribbean, to southwest United States, as well as to Mexico trying to hunt him down. They finally closed in on him in Mexico on Sunday. U.S. and Mexican authorities say he ran from the room where he was being questioned and fell from a hotel balcony in Mazatlan in Mexico.

Joining me now from California is Chris Huicochea -- I'm sorry, Chris.

CHRIS HUICOCHEA, ALLEGED VICTIM OF FAHER SIEGFRIED WIDERA: That's OK.

COOPER: Is that the correct pronunciation?

HUICOCHEA: Huicochea.

COOPER: Heuicochea, OK. Thank you. He says he was one of the victims of this priest. Chris, appreciate you joining us.

HUICOCHEA: Thank you.

COOPER: Your thoughts upon hearing of the death of this former priest.

HUICOCHEA: When I first heard it, I was shocked and I felt a little angry, a little cheated...

COOPER: Cheated in what sense?

HUICOCHEA: I felt that -- well, I was hoping for some retribution. Unfortunately, it didn't happen the way I expected it to.

But, you know, regardless of how it happened, justice was taken and that's the important thing. These victims who have suffered under clergy abuse some times don't get to experience having their perpetrator at hand and law enforcement worked really well across the border on both sides to track him down and so it's encouraging for victims. COOPER: Chris, I know this just got to be an incredibly difficult thing to talk about and feel free to talk, say what you want. You first encountered this man when he was a priest and how did you first run into him?

HUICOCHEA: In 1979, my father passed on and he was assigned to give my father's funeral ceremony and that was the first time I came in contact with him.

Soon after, he approached our home uninvited and began visiting.

COOPER: And how long did -- you say molestation went on, how long do you say it went on for?

HUICOCHEA: Months. Over a period of months.

COOPER: And what has been the aftermath for you of this? I mean, -- it's, from what I've been talking to other people who have experienced this, they say that it just never goes away.

HUICOCHEA: It's a hard stain to remove. You think you can get beyond it and some thing reminds you of your past and your own behaviors some times you can find yourself in very self-destructive behaviors.

I found myself shutting down at times and just living in a shell and it's a painful thing.

COOPER: And no doubt, made all the worse, I guess, when you learned that then Father Widera had been sent from Wisconsin to Orange County in California and apparently it was well known or it was at least partially known that he had had some abuse issues there in Wisconsin, but obviously, people in Orange County were not informed.

HUICOCHEA: That's right. The church knew and he was an active member of the clergy. Like I said, he was assigned to our family's funeral and, you know, they didn't let us know. They failed to tell us of his proclivity with young boys. So his sexual behaviors, you know and that's -- that's the real damage.

COOPER: Well, Chris, I guess one chapter of this has ended with the death of this man in Mexico. We appreciate you joining us. Chris Huicochea....

HUICOCHEA: Thank you.

COOPER: ...telling us your story. Thank you very much, Chris.

HUICOCHEA: Thank you.

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