|Prosecutor: Ex-boonville Priest Suspected of Sexual Assaults Taken into Custody
By Nate Birt
Boonville Daily News
April 28, 2010
An ex-Boonville priest suspected of sexually assaulting three mid-Missouri men in the 1980s has been taken into custody in New Jersey, Cooper County Prosecutor Doug Abele said today.
The suspect, Gerald Howard, was arrested with the help of the Bloomfield Police Department in New Jersey and the Boonville Police Department, Abele said.
A $1.5 million bond has been set, he said.
Howard is expected to be charged with three counts of forcible sodomy, three counts of attempted forcible sodomy and two counts of kidnapping, Abele said. Howard could face 5 years to life in prison if convicted on the sodomy charges.He could face 5 to 15 years if convicted on the kidnapping charges.
Howard once worked as a priest at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville.
The prosecutor’s office is not naming the three alleged victims — identified in court documents as John Doe 1, John Doe 2 and John Doe 3 —? to preserve their confidentiality, Abele said. Their names would become public if the case goes to trial and they are asked to testify, he said.
Former Boonville resident Mark McAllister claimed in August that Howard sexually assaulted him repeatedly during the 1980s while he was an attendee of the Boonville parish. He won a $600,000 settlement in connection with those claims in the fall.
McAllister claimed Howard as having worked at Ss. Peter and Paul and as having taken him on trips to places such as New Jersey.
The Cooper County Sheriff’s Department also participated in the investigation, Abele said.
Decisions about which charges to file had to be made based on laws that were in effect at the time the crimes are suspected of having occurred, Abele said. That meant consulting Missouri statutes in effect in 1983, 1984 and 1985, he said.
Judge Robert Koffman on Monday reviewed the grand jury’s recommendations Thursday in Cooper County. Koffman authorized the warrant that has been issued for Howard’s arrest, Abele said.
Capt. Don Smith of the Boonville police said the Sheriff’s Department launched the investigation into Howard in September and later transferred the case to Boonville police.
Bloomfield police took Howard into custody at his apartment today, Smith said. It was their first attempt to make contact with him.
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