Pastor pleads not guilty to statutory rape

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:03 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The former pastor of a Columbia church pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of second-degree statutory sodomy and second-degree statutory rape in the 13th Circuit Court.

Columbia police said in a probable cause statement that Roberto Edgar Lopez, 36, had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl who attended Horeb United Methodist Church, a bilingual Spanish and English-langauge church Lopez helped establish.

Since Lopez left Columbia, the congregation was “dissolved,” said the Rev. Nick Campbell of the Fairview United Methodist Church. Lopez had been moved by the church from Columbia to Monett to help minister another bilingual church.

According to an earlier Missourian report, after Lopez had been moved the parents of the 15-year-old found instant messages from Lopez to their daughter and reported the suspected abuse to the Columbia Police Department.

Lopez was arrested on July 31.

Lopez is a native of Mexico City.

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