A pastor who worked in Oregon ran off to Georgia, where he led a church, in order to avoid facing several sexual assault charges, but he was caught when the authorities worked across jurisdictional boundaries to test and match his DNA to the crime scenes.
Helio Santiago Ferreira now sits in the Lowndes County Jail in Georgia despite the fact that authorities couldn’t link him to any crimes in the state. He is the pastor of Grace Fellowship Day Adventist Church in the city of Valdosta.
Ferreia is currently awaiting extradition.
Officials with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office said they were contacted by law enforcement in Portland, notifying them Ferreira was in the area. Since then, the departments have been working very closely together.
Authorities said he has been in the Lowndes County area for about one year working as a pastor at the church.
Ferreira is facing nine felony charges, including rape, sodomy and kidnapping. The cases go back to 2012, and most recently in 2018.
So, what do we know about this particular guy? At the very least, he knows to hide in churches since it’s much easier to move around undetected.
It took a DNA sample to tie him to the crimes.
Sheriff Ashley Paulk said the department helped Portland law enforcement obtain DNA, which linked Ferreira to the sex crimes.
“It’s a great feeling, I mean, that guy preys on women and young girls. He doesn’t need to be on the streets again,” Paulk said. “We have interactions with a lot of other agencies, and Portland was one of those. They were great to work with, we got a pretty bad guy off the streets for Portland. Of course, it’s just been a miracle he’s been here for over a year and he hasn’t committed that same crime here.”
Talk about low stakes for a miracle…
Although the pastor’s church hasn’t said anything about this case publicly, his former employer in Oregon — also religious — issued a statement.
Ferreira did also work part-time with the Seventh Day Adventists Oregon Conference. In a statement, officials said, in part:
“The Oregon Conference has become aware that Mr. Helio Ferreira has been indicted in Multnomah County on sexual assault and other charges.
Mr. ferreria worked part-time for Oregon Conference entities from 2014-March, 2019. At this time, we have no reports that these allegations have any connection to his employment in the Oregon Conference. Nevertheless, we will continue to monitor this matter closely and cooperate as appropriate with local authorities on any ongoing investigation into these allegations.”
Here’s hoping his victims can finally find some peace.