SANTA ANA (CBS) — A retired priest pleaded guilty Friday to four felony counts of lewd acts on a child under 14.

Denis Lyons, 78, of Seal Beach, served as a priest at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Costa Mesa, where prosecutors say he molested a young male student for three years, starting when the child was in second grade, KNX 1070’s Mike Landa reports.

On four occasions, Lyons sexually assaulted the boy by engaging in masturbation with him, twice in his room in the parish rectory and twice in the church sacristy, according to prosecutors.

The victim, now an adult, filed a report with the Costa Mesa Police Department in September 2008. Lyons was arrested July 20, 2009, while playing cards at a local community center near his home in Leisure World in Seal Beach.

In April 2003, Lyons was charged with molesting a second boy under the age of 14 between 1978 and 1981. This case was dismissed for being passed the statute of limitation.

Lyons is expected to be sentenced May 25 to a year in jail, five years of probation and lifetime sex offender registration that will bar him from entering county recreational areas and city parks which have passed the sex offender ordinance.

Comments (5)
  1. Tod says:


  2. M says:

    As a lfelong Catholic this kind of predator disgusts me and all other Catholics. Not only did they betray these boys, they also betrayed the Catholic Church. They should spend the rest of their lives in jail.

  3. Jerry says:

    “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians. They are not like your Christ” Gandi

  4. patrickjwall says:

    First, we want to thank the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for
    working diligently over the past decade to ensure that Denis Lyons faced
    justice in the criminal courts. Despite numerous setbacks, prosecutors have
    never lost sight of the threat that Lyons has continually posed to children
    across the county.

    Despite today’s victory for children, we are still dismayed that church
    officials knew about Denis Lyons and his crimes for more than two decades.
    Instead of calling law enforcement, they sent him to a church-run facility
    for child-molesting clerics, promoted him to pastor, and then sent him to a
    parish where he worked side-by-side with another known predator. This
    behavior is inexcusable and every church official who knew, whether they are
    still in Orange or in Boise, ID, MUST be called to account. The excuse of
    “it was a long time ago,” is a slap in the face to victims everywhere.
    Church officials had numerous opportunities to keep kids safe, but instead,
    they did little or nothing.

    Many victims of sexual abuse suffer alone and in silence, but when brave
    victims report to law enforcement and prosecutors do everything in their
    power to ensure that justice is served, our children are safer.

    Joelle Casteix, SNAP Western Regional Director
    Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

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