Runaway Priests Hiding in Plain Sight

Dallas Morning News
December 5, 2004

Sayasaya's path

The Rev. Fernando Sayasaya disappeared from North Dakota six years ago while under criminal investigation for child sex abuse. Authorities have found him in his native Philippines but have not sought his return to face charges. They also have not investigated allegations that the Fargo Diocese told him to stay out of the country to avoid arrest. Here are key events in the case:

1995: He is ordained in Fargo after religious studies in the Philippines and in Rome.

June 1997: Police in West Fargo investigate why he rented a motel room with a runaway teenage boy. The case stalls because there is not evidence of abuse.

August 1998: Two boys tell police that Father Sayasaya sexually abused them. The diocese sends him to a monastery in South Dakota. Prosecutors say police must interview the priest before they will consider filing charges.

December 1948: Bishop James Sullivan lets Father Sayasaya take a vacation to the Philippines. When he does not return as scheduled, church officials tell police he claimed to have bronchitis and could not travel.

January 1999: A third boy tells police he also has been abused by the priest.

July 2000: Detective Greg Warren seeks help from the FBI in locating Father Sayasaya.

March 2002: Bishop Sullivan retires; aides say he has Alzheimer's disease. Bishop Samuel Aquila takes over and says he has ordered Father Sayasaya to return.

November 2002: An FBI agent finds Father Sayasaya, who admits to the abuse under questioning. He also tells the agent that Bishop Sullivan sent word in 1998 that he should stay in the Philippines to avoid arrest.

December 2002: Local prosecutors charge the priest.

2003: The U.S. attorney's office in North Dakota, which has been assisting local prosecutors, gets a federal arrest warrant but later discovers - after inquiries from The Dallas Morning News - that this isn't sufficient to start extradition proceedings.

2004: Father Sayasaya works as and English instructor at De La Salle University, an elite Catholic school in Manila, and lives with his family.

SOURCES: Dallas Morning News research; North Dakota court and police documents


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