Ex-Priest's Former Wife to Testify against Him
Justice: James Porter's Ex-Wife Will Join with Some of His Sex-Abuse Victims to Keep Him Jailed

Associated Press, carried in Duluth News Tribune [Minneapolis MN]
Downloaded April 4, 2004

MINNEAPOLIS - Ten years ago, Verlyne Gray played the role of supportive wife of James Porter, a former priest and prolific clerical sex offender.

Gray stood by Porter's side during a New England court trial that ended with Porter pleading guilty to sexually abusing 28 children from Roman Catholic parishes in Fall River and North Attleboro, Mass.

"This is a good person," she told Newsweek before the trial.

On Monday, Gray, a longtime Oakdale, Minn., resident, will return to Massachusetts with three of Porter's sexual abuse victims from Minnesota. Their intent is to block his release from prison. At a hearing that could last all week, prosecutors in Taunton, Mass., will fight for Porter to be classified as a sexually dangerous person.

If Gray and 11 other prosecution witnesses are not persuasive, Porter will walk away from the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater, where he has been held since his 1993 conviction. If the courts agree that Porter, 69, is still a threat, he will remain in custody indefinitely.

"I wish he was sentenced to life without parole, but that didn't happen," said Gray, who fears he would return to Minnesota to kidnap their youngest son from grade school.

Gray divorced Porter in 1995. She now agrees with prosecutors and victims' lawyers who have documented that Porter preyed on more than 100 children in Massachusetts, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada and Minnesota during his career as a young, charismatic priest and later as a househusband in Oakdale who briefly worked as a Burger King store manager in St. Paul.

Gray said she has grown to realize that he not only victimized family baby sitters, but that he also sexually abused at least one of their four children.

Their oldest son, Sean, died last June of an accidental methadone overdose in a drug rehabilitation halfway house, according to his death certificate. Gray said she believes her son's death at age 23 was linked to personal struggles that stemmed from childhood sexual abuse by Porter.

"Here's this monster and his own wife didn't even know what he was doing," said James Grimm, 46, of Bemidji, Minn. "People like him are masters of deception. There's no way you couldn't expect him to find more victims if he is let out."

Grimm expects to testify in Taunton on Monday. He is one of more than 30 Bemidji-area victims of Porter who came out with their childhood secrets of abuse after the Massachusetts case came to light.

St. Phillip's Catholic Church in Bemidji was one of Porter's last stops as a priest. He left there in 1970 and left the priesthood in 1973 after admitting to the Vatican that he abused youths in eight Catholic parishes since his ordination in 1960.

The Rev. Michael Patnode, the current priest at St. Phillip's, said the passage of time hasn't erased Porter from the minds of local parishioners. "The devastation he wrought in the Bemidji area is still felt," Patnode said. "We have lots of victims and victims' families here, and we are still well aware of it."


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