A minister accused of sexually abusing two teenage parishioners fell 400 feet to his death at Sequoia National Park, officials said.
The Rev. Santos Teixeira’s death Sunday was under “uncertain circumstances,” requiring the National Park Service to notify the FBI of its investigation, Alexandra Picavet, a Sequoia National Park spokeswoman, said Monday.
Picavet said park investigators have yet to determine the manner of death and cautioned it was standard procedure to notify the FBI about the case, which happened on federal land.
Teixeira, 56, plunged 400 feet from the summit of Moro Rock, a 6,500-foot-tall granite dome. A person believed to be a parishioner and other bystanders were in the area and have been interviewed, Picavet said.
Teixeira, the pastor of Iglesia Del Nazareno (Church of the Nazarene) in Porterville, was ordered in August to stand trial on charges of rape and sexual assault. The allegations involve two teenage sisters who attended his church.
Prosecutors said Teixeira befriended the girls and their mother shortly after the family moved to the area from Mexico.
Teixeira could have faced 45 years to life in prison if convicted. But Teixeira’s lawyer has said there was no physical evidence of a crime and the girls’ statements were vague and inconsistent.
Teixeira’s family asked the Park Service to look into the pastor’s death, Picavet said. The family could not immediately be reached for comment; a telephone number could not be located.