Witness in Boonville Priest Sex Abuse Case Recalls Years of Abuse
By Ben Nadler
October 31, 2012
BOONVILLE — Mark McAllister hasn’t seen Gerald Howard in nearly 25 years.
On Wednesday, McAllister hopes to see him again, this time from the witness stand. McAllister is expected to testify against Howard, a former priest at the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville, who is accused of using his position of authority to systematically abuse and sexually molest McAllister and other boys.
Howard is charged with three counts of forcible sodomy, three counts of attempted forcible sodomy, and two counts of kidnapping and terrorizing for incidents that were alleged to have occurred between September 1983 and June 1988. Howard is being held on $1.5 million bond.
According to previous Missourian reporting, Howard, formerly known by the name Carmen Sita, was a priest in New Jersey where he was charged with sexual contact with a minor in September 1982 and pleaded guilty in 1983.
Barbara Dorris, outreach director at the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said church leaders briefly placed Howard in a treatment facility, before his name was changed and he returned to the priesthood in Boonville in the fall of 1983.
According to a motion filed in June 2010, Howard was arrested in New Jersey and arraigned on all eight counts on May 17, 2010.
He was brought to Cooper County, where he now awaits trial.
On Wednesday morning, Howard will have a motion hearing in the Cooper County Courthouse to determine if the eight counts of sexual abuse took place within Missouri’s statute of limitations.
In a defendant's motion filed on July 16, Howard's defense argued that the statute of limitations prohibits prosecution. They are asking for the case to be thrown out.
The motion reads in part that "the passage of time can erode memories and make witnesses or other evidence unavailable." It continues, "Much has changed that influence the ability of Defendant to respond to the allegations raised in the Indictment."
That indictment was handed down by a Cooper County grand jury in April 2010. The indictment alluded to three male victims, though it referred to them as “John Doe 1,” “John Doe 2” and “John Doe 3.”
Mark McAllister is one of those John Does, but he said he is sharing his name and his story to protect other children from further sexual abuse.
McAllister was in seventh grade when Howard came to Boonville in the fall of 1983 as a priest at Saints Peter and Paul Church and School.
The charismatic priest quickly became well liked and trusted within the tight-knit parish, McAllister said. Adults in the community thought he was eccentric and passionate, while their kids thought he was just about the coolest priest they had ever met.
“He wasn’t like the other priests,” McAllister said. “He would smoke and use vulgar language, listen to rock ’n’ roll music.”
A short time after he arrived, Howard went around to classes at the school and administered what he called a personality profile test. After scoring all the tests, Howard told McAllister, then 13, their personalities matched and that they happened to share one of the rarest and most sought after types of personality.
According to McAllister, their relationship quickly progressed.
McAllister said Howard took him on long drives in the country and would invite him into his living quarters. Howard engaged McAllister in long philosophical discussions in which Howard would espouse a philosophy that everyone was bisexual at their core.
McAllister said Howard provided him with alcohol and introduced him to drugs — marijuana at first, which quickly progressed to psychedelics and cocaine. McAllister remembers using cocaine with the priest when he was 14.
Within months of the priest’s arrival, their relationship turned sexual, McAllister said. It started one night when Howard made an advance at McAllister. Then sexual abuse became a regular weekly occurrence, according to McAllister. Drugs and alcohol were almost always used as part of the sex acts. Although it does not name McAllister, the grand jury indictment says that the locations included the parish rectory.
McAllister’s parents knew nothing about the sexual abuse or drug use and were happy that their only child was spending time with a priest. Howard became close to the family, so close that he often spent holidays with the McAllisters and would walk freely in to their home without knocking, McAllister said.
According to McAllister, Howard left Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church and took what the parishioners were told was a leave of absence. Dates stipulated in the grand jury indictment put Howard at the church from September 1983 to November 1984.
According to McAllister, Howard moved into a home on 3rd Street in Boonville and found work as a substance abuse counselor. McAllister said that during this time he was sexually molested on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis and often spent the night with Howard.
“He had a lot more liberty once he left the church,” McAllister said.
This abuse went on in McAllister’s life from age 13 to 18. He tried to keep some semblance of a normal life, tried to have girlfriends, tried to be a normal teenage boy. But, he always had a secret life; one of torment, violence and shame. The abuse stopped, he said, when he graduated high school and moved to Kansas City.
Since the abuse, McAllister, now 42, has had a difficult time adjusting. He has been largely unable to trust anyone. He has difficult time forming intimate relationships and said that he has an unhealthy view of sex. He has struggled with substance abuse for nearly his entire adult life and had been through several treatment facilities.
“Substance abuse was the only thing he gave me to cope with what is going on,” he said.
It was in one of those rehabilitation programs that McAllister first started talking about his years of abuse.
McAllister was encouraged to contact the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which he credits with helping him begin the process of bringing a criminal case against Howard and a civil lawsuit against the church.
In August 2009, McAllister won a $600,000 civil settlement with the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., the Diocese of Jefferson City and the Servants of the Paraclete, an organization that helps Catholic men overcome personal difficulties, according to previous Missourian reporting.