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Originally published Friday, November 23, 2012 at 12:44 PM

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Seattle child-molestation suspect believed to have fled the country

A $150,000 warrant was issued last week for the missing 25-year-old man, who has been charged with three counts of third-degree child molestation, papers say.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A 25-year-old religious instructor is believed to have fled to Guatemala after his relationship with a 14-year-old student was discovered by the girl's mother, according to charging documents filed in King County Superior Court.

A $150,000 warrant was issued last week for Lydia Katz, who has been charged with three counts of third-degree child molestation, papers say.

Katz taught at two Seattle-area temples, worked at a Jewish children's camp over Labor Day weekend and tutored children preparing for their bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs, say the papers, which do not identify which synagogues Katz was associated with.

Katz met the 14-year-old at the girl's temple in September 2011 when she was a student in his eighth-grade Jewish religion class, charging papers say. The two began spending time alone together, both at Katz's North Seattle residence and at a park near both of their houses, the papers say.

The girl's mother became suspicious of the relationship this September and, after checking her daughter's email account, found romantic emails between the two, according to charging papers.

The mother confronted her daughter, who admitted to having a romantic relationship with Katz; the girl called Katz, but her mother wouldn't let him come inside the house, the papers say.

Katz later texted the mother, telling her he was in love with the 14-year-old, charging papers say.

"As things stand, I am at your mercy. My career, my freedom, all I have ever worked to build; these things you can destroy, with one simple call or email," Katz said in a text to the girl's mother, according to the papers.

The girl told a Seattle police detective that the two kissed and touched each other, the papers say.

In conversations at his house, Katz also spoke to several 14-year-olds "about sexual subjects, such as safely engaging in Bondage/Domination/Sado-Masochistic sex," charging papers state.

He was fired after his relationship with the 14-year-old was discovered, the papers say, and his phone was disconnected. Though he responded to one email a Seattle detective sent to him, he has not replied to subsequent messages, the papers say.

As a teacher and volunteer in Jewish schools and communities, Katz is described "as a dynamic and charismatic individual who is able to easily engage with youth," charging papers say.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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