Clergy Crimes

September 1997 – January 1998

M – W

  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin



    WORCESTER — A victim with repressed memories has been awarded $527,734 dollars in a civil suit against a priest she claims sexually molested her several times during the late 1960s starting when she was 4 years old, on at least one occasion while he recited the Lord's Prayer.

    Cynthia Yerrick, 33, won half a million dollars for her pain and suffering, the rest for medical expenses and future counseling. Her claims against the bishop and Diocese of Worcester are still pending.

    Fr. Robert Kelley, sentenced to 5-7 years in 1990 after pleading guilty to charges of raping a child, indecent assault and battery and assault with intent to rape of another girl in the mid-1980s, never filed an answer to the lawsuit. (10/18)



    ELGIN — A convicted child molester who became a self-styled psychic and spiritual healer has been convicted again of sexual abuse.

    Jeffrey Knapp, 47, founder of the Inner Journey Institute for the Healing Arts in Elgin and a former schoolteacher appeared stunned when the judge read the verdict. He was convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct for making a 14-year-old boy touch him under the guise of an Oriental healing technique called reiki.

    Knapp's wife, three of their children, as well as the female state trooper who investigated the case all wept after the verdict was read, though for different reasons.

    The key testimony was from the victim himself, who sobbed most of the way through his time on the witness stand. Later the boy said, "I don't hate him. I just think he is really sick." (1/17)

    ELGIN — A former associate Baptist minister has been found guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault involving two girls aged 4 and 9 in 1995 in an encounter in which the girls' mother participated. Juan Wyley, 39, faces 12 to 60 years in prison. Sentencing was scheduled for Dec. 3.
    Wyley testified that he had accepted lodging from the woman while he pursued a reconciliation with his ex-wife, but that the girls' mother was "crazy" causing him to leave after a stay of only 5 days. Investigators were alerted by the mother's psychiatrist and later learned that she was involved in the incident. (No date)



    EMBARRASS — The former pastor of a Lutheran church here and in Pike pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting two boys between 1987 and 1997. Rev. James Holmgren, 46, entered his plea of guilty to one count each of first-degree and third-degree criminal sexual conduct just two hours before his trial was to start.

    Three felony charges were filed against him in late June 1997 accusing him of abusing a boy from 1987 to 1989. A complaint filed in July said holmgren admitted to investigators that he abused a second juvenile from 1994 to about Feb. 1997. Sentencing was set for March 3. (1/14)



    NASHUA — A religious who is a convicted sex offender has been charged with violating a state law that bars sex offenders from working with children and has been allowed to move out of state.

    Br. Shawn McEnany, 35, pleaded guilty in 1988 to having unlawful sexual contact with a 15-year-old female student while teaching at St. Dominic Regional High School in Lewiston, Maine. He received a suspended jail sentence and was hired at Bishop Guertin here two years later. At the time, both schools were operated by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.

    McEnany was charged with teaching as a convicted sex offender and failing to register. He faces up to 15 years in prison on the former charge and up to one year on the latter.

    Guertin officials admitted they knew of McEnany's record but decided to hire him because it was a boys-only school at the time. Headmaster Br. Leo Labbe defended his decision in a letter to parents, claiming that he believed McEnany, a popular religion teacher, had rehabilitated himself and would not be a danger to any students. He said he had learned an important lesson and promised "to think more like a parent and as a student" in the future.

    A judge allowed McEnany to move to a home owned by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in Woonsocket, RI.

    At the same time McEnany's history became public, now-retired math teacher at the school, Br. Guy Beaulieu, was alleged by graduates and former employees to have molested students during his nearly two decades at the school. Some said complaints were made to school officials as far back as the 1970s.

    Beaulieu was transferred to a home owned by the Brothers in Burrilville, RI in 1990. Similar allegations at that time were made by a Guertin student against computer teacher Michael Couture. Instead of being reported as required by law, he was asked to resign. In 1994, Couture pleaded guilty to 12 counts of rape of a student he'd taught at the school in 1989 and is now serving 10 to 30 years in the state prison. (11/24)

    FARMINGTON — A priest already facing sexual abuse charges has been arrested again. Fr. Roger Fortier, 51, was on administrative leave after he was charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy at his rectory. Police say the boy often spent weekend evenings there with the priest. The boy told authorities he and Fortier engaged in sexual acts during the visits. According to court records, police seized child pornography during a search of the priest's home.

    In the latest case, Fortier was charged with felonious sexual assault after an alleged victim told police that the priest had assaulted him some time in the last 5 years.

    If convicted, Fortier faces a 3 to 7 year prison sentence on each count. The Diocese of Manchester has said they have never received complaints about him. Yet he has served at six other parishes since his ordination in 1980. (11/11)



    ALBUQUERQUE — The attorneys for an ex-convict accused of killing a retired priest are seeking access to church records about the priest, but the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the Servants of the Paraclete contend that the records should not be released.

    Dennis Carabajal, 38, is accused of killing Fr. Armando Martinez, 62, whose nude body was found last May 4 beside a highway traversing the Jemez Mountains some twenty miles up the road from the Servants of the Paraclete motherhouse. Carabajal, who has a criminal record dating back to 1978, has said he reacted violently after the priest made sexual advances on him.
    Martinez spent time at the Paracletes during the 1980s. He was relieved of his duties in 1993 after he was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor and retired the next year.

    Church lawyers claim that the state has no right to subpoena records from the church. The lawyer for the Paracletes said they had offered inspection to both sides, though no records could be copied or taken and claimed there was nothing pertinent to the case anyway. The prosecutors refused the deal. A trial date has not yet been set. (11/27)

    ALBUQUERQUE — Former Archbishop Robert Sanchez, 63, who resigned in disgrace after revelations of his sexual relationships with women, has been living with nuns in a small Minnesota town, a TV station here said.

    KOB-TV reported that Sanchez has been seen living with the Sisters of Mercy in Jackson, but a spokeswoman said that Sanchez no longer lives with them, who have two farms there. She said Sanchez lived there only because the nuns were hospitable and had held no formal job while there.

    Knowledge of his whereabouts have been sketchy since his resignation, but he led a retreat for priests in Tucson, Arizona in October. (11/4)

    For more information on this case, see The Secrets of Archbishop Sanchez.



    WYNANTSKILL — A pastor arrested for misdemeanor public lewdness at an interstate rest stop has received support from his parishioners. Fr. John J. Varno, 58, was arrested by an undercover state trooper at a rest stop on Interstate 90 that is commonly used by men seeking anonymous sex, according to the State Police, during a routine check of the rest stop after the police received complaints of illicit behavior.

    Varno has been in charge of St. Jude's since 1976, and according to the chancellor of the Diocese of Albany, has had no previous problems. He voluntarily took a leave of absence and is receiving counseling, she said. (11/14)



    MEDFORD — A priest faces charges that he raped two elderly women at a nursing home. Fr. Michael Hughes, 71, a pastor of three parishes, is charged with first-degree rape by instrumentation and second-degree rape by instrumentation. He was released on bond and faces a preliminary hearing scheduled for Jan. 13.

    In an affidavit, one nursing-home resident said Hughes asked her to leave him alone with her 69-year-old roommate and when she came back into the room, saw the priest with his hands between her roommate's legs. A nurse's aide told police she also saw Hughes put his hands between the legs of a 71-year-old woman in her room.

    A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City said Hughes had been removed from his current ministerial assignment pending investigation. He noted that Hughes suffered serious strokes in 1996 that required hospitalization. "Although we were not aware of any deterioration of his mental condition until these incidents, we now believe that such deterioration is the only rational explanation," he said. (12/9)



    PROVIDENCE — A grand jury has indicted Fr. Michael LaMountain, 48, on charges that he molested five altar boys in his home between 1979 and 1983. A once-popular priest, LaMountain served as chaplain to West Warwick police and fire departments and known for his public campaign against an all-nude nightclub across the street from his church.

    He was suspended as pastor in March 1995. (11/27)

    PROVIDENCE — A man accused of fracturing a priest's skull with a brick and then threatening to shoot him unless he waded into the harbor has been ordered held on $35,000 bail.

    Lance Blicker, 18, was arrested the day after the incident in the priest's car in Mass., allegedly with 19 doses of LSD in his possession. While in jail, Blicker sent a letter to the church claiming that his alleged victim, Fr. Ronald Bengford, 37, had sexually assaulted him. While not charged with any crime, Bengford has been put on indefinite leave of absence during the investigation.

    According to police, Bengford claimed he met the young man in a park and agreed to give him a ride. Blicker threatened Bengford, ordering him to drive to an industrial area near the harbor, where he forced the priest to touch Blicker's genitals and then grabbed the priest's against his will. Then he forced Bengford out of the car, struck him over the head with a rock, punched and kicked him, finally ordering him into the water.

    Police said Blicker has not been charged with sexual assault because after they interviewed the priest again "it was determined there was not probable cause."

    Five parish representatives met at the diocesan chancery and pressed officials to remove Bengford, even before they were aware of the letter. (11/27)

    PROVIDENCE — A judge who granted a new trial for a priest convicted of rape had no basis to do so and overstepped his judicial authority, state Attorney General Jeff Pine said in an appeal of that decision to the state Supreme Court. He said that the original decision of Superior Court Judge Stephen Fortunato which found Msgr. Louis Dunn, 76, guilty of rape should stand and the retired priest get a new trial.

    Weeks after Fortunato had convicted Dunn in June 1997 of sexually assaulting a parishioner in 1982, the judge reversed his own decision claiming that Dunn had received ineffective counsel due to the inexperience his lawyer, Bruce Vealey, had with criminal cases. But, according to Pine, Fortunato cited no specific errors and pointed out that Vealey had convinced Fortunato to throw out another rape charge against Dunn in a separate case. He also claimed Fortunato had misapplied federal case law.

    Mary Ryan, the woman who brought the charge, looked stunned and wept when Fortunato announced his reversal in court. Survivors and supporters demonstrated in protest, calling for a state panel to remove Fortunato from the bench, characterizing the decision as "justice by fan mail" after the judge said he had received 90 letters supporting Dunn. (8/18)



    DALLAS — A youth minister of the Church of Christ has been arrested after allegedly sending nude pictures of himself to a 14-year-old girl over the Internet. Matthew Washington, 23, was charged with distribution of harmful material to a minor. Police said Washington sent her four photos of him seated nude on an exercise bike at the church after talking to her in an Internet chat room. The girl showed them to her mother who alerted the police. Washington was released on bail but faces up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. (12/22)

    SAN ANTONIO — Msgr. John Flynn, the pastor of the largest Catholic parish in South Texas, retired from ministry after admitting a sexual encounter with a female adolescent that occurred 20 years ago. He had been removed from his position a month previously when the woman accused him in a letter to the archdiocese. (11/6)

    DALLAS — In a highly unusual action, the Diocese of Dallas suspended the priestly powers of Fr. Rick Tullius, 50, notifying the parishes by e-mail. In the message, the diocese advised parishes and parishioners not to lend him any money. Tullius had resigned from St. Michael the Archangel in Grand Prairie in January 1997 but had been filling in for other pastors in both the Dallas and Ft. Worth dioceses.

    Tullius, a long-time advocate for the needy, had repeatedly been warned not to try to borrow money from parishioners. In 1996 he declared bankruptcy, listing about $50,000 in debts mostly from credit cards and a car loan, and $10,000 in assets. The court discharged those debts before he left his parish.

    An internal investigation into the the situation was continuing. His successor said he didn't yet whether there were problems with the parish's finances, which has no business manager. (9/13)



    WHEELING — David Miller, 50, ex-treasurer of St. Joseph's Cathedral, was sentenced to up to 10 years for stealing more than $300,000 from the church. (1/9)



    LA CROSSE — An abusive priest, convicted of the sexual exploitation of a child in 1991, has been released from his priestly vows. Bruce Ball was laicized at his own request, according to an official announcement published in the diocesan newspaper. It said the change of status, approved by the Vatican, took effect Aug. 11.

    Ball, sentenced to five years in prison was released from jail in March 1996. His parole was scheduled to end Dec. 12. (10/24)

    PORTAGE — Episcopal Church officials here and in Ft. Worth, Texas, allowed a now-imprisoned man to become a priest despite accusations of sexual misconduct during his seminary training, police records show. Defrocked priest Eugene Maxey, 43, now serving 20 years in Wisconsin, admitted to police that he abused four boys at Nashotah House, a Wisconsin seminary, in the late 1980s, some of them dozens of times. He denied sexually molesting a young man there whom he had driven up with from Texas and gotten drunk, saying it was consensual. No charges were filed in that incident nor in regards to his confession to police of abusing boys in Albany, New York, after ordination. Maxey served there until the early 1990s and then worked at parish in Chester, England, until his arrest.

    Signs of trouble first surfaced by early 1986, when a fellow seminarian told the dean that she suspected Maxey of trying to seduce her 12-year-old son. Police records show that men who lived in the dormitory with Maxey backed up her claims, saying boys often visited him behind closed doors.

    The dean at the time, Fr. Jack Knight, said it was only "innuendo" and Maxey denied wrongdoing. Knight is himself now suspended from the priesthood for sexual misconduct with a Colorado woman.

    After more allegations were made, Maxey was allowed to transfer his allegiance to the Albany diocese. Fr. Rex Perry, who worked at the seminary and served as mediator, resigned last year as a pastor in Dallas after pleading no contest to fondling a Dallas police officer in a public restroom. Since completing a probationary sentence, he is now an assistant pastor in Baton Rouge.

    Several people interviewed by police at Nashotah House, one of the most conservative Episcopal seminaries in the country, said that at the time consensual adult misconduct was common there, describing heterosexual adultery, homosexual promiscuity and faculty-student liaisons.

    Five prosecutions resulted from the investigation. Along with Maxey, Fr. Russell Martin, 39, also sponsored by the Ft. Worth diocese and now suspended, was convicted for three incidents of child-abuse, and is serving a four-year term which he is appealing.

    Along with another seminarian, courts found they abused a young teenage boy whose stepfather was studying for the priesthood at the seminary at that time. The victim came forward in early 1994 with allegations of everything from fondling to rape, sometimes accompanied by pornography and drug use. This led to the identification of other victims of Maxey, most of whom were also sons of fellow seminarians. (10/5)



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