MO priest, now facing multiple life sentences for rapes, kidnappings, was reassigned by bishop

(above) Fr. Gerald Howard

Via the Columbia Daily Tribune:

Former Boonville priest Gerald Howard will return to Missouri to face criminal charges in connection with events alleged to have occurred more than 20 years ago.

A Cooper County grand jury has returned an indictment against the former Catholic priest alleging three counts of forcible sodomy, three counts of attempted forcible sodomy and two counts of kidnapping against three minors in the mid- to late 1980s. Howard was arrested yesterday in his Bloomfield, N.J., apartment on a warrant from Missouri, Bloomfield Police Chief Mark Leonard said. Howard is being detained in the Essex County Jail in New Jersey on $1.5 million bond, pending extradition to Missouri.

Cooper County Prosecutor Doug Abele said the grand jury charged Howard after hearing accounts from three alleged victims describing incidents they said occurred when they were minors. The specific charges fall under a special statute of limitations that allows certain criminal charges to be filed without time limits. The prosecutor’s office is not releasing the names of the three alleged victims. Their identities would be made public only if they are asked to testify during a trial. If convicted on all counts, Howard could face multiple life sentences on the sodomy charges, plus additional sentences of up to 15 years in prison on each of the kidnapping charges.

(above) Bishop Michael McAuliffe

Howard, formerly known as Carmine Sita, once served as a priest in New Jersey. After accusations of sexual molestation, he completed a treatment program specifically for priests with sexual abuse issues. He changed his name and was reassigned by then-Bishop Michael McAuliffe as an associate pastor at the Boonville church. McAuliffe died in 2006. After being ousted from the Boonville parish, Howard worked at the now-closed Charter Hospital in Columbia. David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said he has heard from at least one person who claims to have been abused by Howard there.

“He had access to and some degree of control over troubled kids who were especially vulnerable,” Clohessy said.

In August, one of Howard’s alleged victims, former Boonville resident Mark McAllister, accepted a $600,000 settlement paid in part by the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City. Since then, several other alleged victims have come forward.

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