A Roman Catholic priest has been arrested on charges that he solicited a hit man to kill a teenager who had accused him of sexual abuse. Authorities said John Fiala first offered the job to a neighbor, who blew the whistle and helped police arrange a sting. They said Fiala got as far as negotiating a $5,000 price for the slaying before investigators moved in.
The 52-year-old clergyman was arrested Nov. 18 at his suburban Dallas home and jailed on $700,000 bond. In April, he was named in a lawsuit filed by the boy’s family, who accused Fiala of molesting the youth, including twice forcing him to have sex at gunpoint.
The abuse allegedly took place in 2007 and 2008, when Fiala was a priest at the Sacred Heart of Mary Parish in the West Texas community of Rocksprings, a rural enclave known for sheep and goat herding.
The family’s lawsuit also named the Archdiocese of San Antonio and Archbishop Jose Gomez, alleging that church leadership should have known Fiala was abusive.
The suit was filed just a month before Gomez was introduced as the new incoming leader of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. He is currently serving as an assistant to Cardinal Roger Mahony, who will retire next year. Gomez then automatically becomes archbishop.
When he learned of the murder-for-hire investigation, the boy “was terrified and rightly so,” said San Antonio attorney Tom Rhodes, who represents the family. As far back as 2008, Fiala threatened the teen, and repeatedly brandished a pistol, Rhodes said.
Fiala “began saying, ‘If you tell anyone, I’ll hurt you. I’ll hurt your family, your girlfriend,’” Rhodes said. “It was more than once he threatened him with a gun.”