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Former Cincinnati parish staffer accused of sexual abuse pleads not guilty in Milwaukee

Last Updated 2 weeks by Amnon J. Jobi | Amnon Front Page

A now-former Cincinnati parish staff member pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin court room.

Marco Melendez worked as the music director for Queen of Apostles Parish Family from February until the charges in Wisconsin were filed against him on June 25. Fr. Alex McCullough, pastor of the parish family, said in a letter to parishioners that Melendez was no longer employed with the parish as of June 25.

Melendez faces two counts of child enticement and one count of third-degree sexual assault for alleged actions that took place between 2016 and 2019 in Milwaukee, when he was director of the Milwaukee Children’s Choir. The alleged victim was a member of that choir when the acts of alleged grooming and sexual abuse occurred, court records show.

The Queen of Apostles parish family in Cincinnati includes Our Lady of the Valley, Our Lady of the Rosary and St. James of the Valley, according to the parish website.

According to the letter from McCullough, Melendez went through the Archdiocese’s mandated child protection requirements, including a criminal background check, and no prior charges nor convictions were revealed at the time he was hired in February.

McCullough wrote that he is not aware of any allegations of criminal activity made against Melendez while he was with the Queen of Apostles Parish Family.

According to the court documents filed in Wisconsin, the alleged victim spoke with police in May.

The victim told police that when he was a minor, his parents put him in the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, where the director was Marco Melendez, according to court documents. The alleged victim said Melendez would make inappropriate comments to the boys in the choir, including about him “hooking up with guys” and asking the boys about their sex lives, court documents say.

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In 2016, Melendez took the alleged victims and other boys from the choir to the movies; on another instance, Melendez texted the alleged victim to invite him to the movies, including picking him up from his home, according to the court document.

Former Cincinnati parish staffer faces allegations of grooming, sexual abuse in Wisconsin

“While en route, the defendant dropped the back of his hand against (the alleged victim’s) crotch, pretending to be reaching for a drink,” reads the document, in part. The alleged victim “estimated that the defendant had picked him up and taken him to his residence approximately 100 times, and 80 of those times involved the defendant touching his crotch during the ride.”

From there, Melendez began having the alleged victim over to his house to watch movies, where he would serve the boy “numerous mixed drinks including Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and Kamikazes. The crotch-grabbing continued here as well,” the court document says.

In 2017, while the alleged victim was still a minor, he told police Melendez offered to perform a sexual act on him, according to the documents. The document goes on to say Melendez would grab the alleged victim’s crotch both over and beneath his pants. He told police he would wear a “really tight belt and squirm away,” but that Melendez just laughed and told him to stop moving, according to the court document.

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On another instance in 2017, the document describes further sexual allegations against Melendez, in which he touched the alleged victim while he was partially nude.

The alleged victim “described not wanting to participate and that he then texted his mother to pick him up from the defendant’s house,” the document reads.

The alleged victim quit the choir at some point in 2017, but told police Melendez would still pick him up until June of 2018, when Melendez moved out of state, according to the document. However, Melendez moved back to the same area in Milwaukee in April 2019, the document says.

On another instance in 2019, when the alleged victim was a legal adult, he claims Melendez sexually assaulted him after serving he and a friend alcohol at Melendez’s home.

Court documents say that on May 9, the alleged victim participated in a one-party consent call facilitated by police, in which he called Melendez and asked him to apologize for many of the accusations made in the court document. Melendez admitted in the phone call to providing alcohol to the alleged victim and “other people,” but said he couldn’t remember any of the specific allegations of sexual assault.

“Ahhh, I don’t remember any of that to be perfectly honest,” Melendez said, according to the document. “The defendant then stated he was not saying (the alleged victim) is lying, but the defendant just doesn’t remember.”

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Police spoke to another person who was a member of the Milwaukee Children’s Choir during the same time as the allegations, the document says. That person told police Melendez would often talk about sex with members of the choir, including at his home where he served several underage members alcohol, according to the document.

“(He) believes the defendant was trying to normalize talking about sex in regular conversation,” the document says.

That person claimed Melendez also texted members of the choir in a group chat, the document says.

The second person does not allege Melendez sexually abused him in any way, but told police he’d been served alcohol and, at one point at Melendez’s home he witnessed Melendez encourage the alleged victim to get naked, which he did, the document says. The second person also said the alleged victim told him in 2019 about the alleged sexual assault where another friend was present.

According to the court document, if convicted on all three counts, Melendez could serve a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

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