Mom's Calendars Undermine Billy Doe's Story
By Ralph Cipriano
March 7, 2013
Billy Doe's mother kept meticulous track of both of her sons' grade school events.
On monthly calendars, she noted dates and times for football and hockey games, doctor's appointments, and guitar lessons, flu shots and snow days. She wrote down dates for upcoming exams, school projects, home and school meetings, as well as the day that report cards came out.
She also kept track of the Masses that her sons were scheduled to serve at as altar boys at St. Jerome's Church.
Billy Doe's mother kept all those calendars, including the 1998 and 1999 calendars when Billy was a fifth grader at St. Jerome's. That's the school year when Billy claims he was raped by Father Charles Engelhardt after a 6:30 a.m. Mass.
The calendars kept by Billy's mother were turned over to the district attorney's office as evidence in the case. So the D.A. searched the calendars, seeking a 6:30 a.m. Mass that Billy served at to corroborate the rape victim's story.
But the search came up empty. And it wasn't the only time that Billy's story didn't check out.
On March 19, 2010, Billy told the grand jury that Father Engelhardt first approached him during the winter when he was in fifth grade. "I was serving a 6:30 Mass before school," Billy testified. Father Engelhardt "asked me to stay after Mass to help him out with something."
Billy Doe got the time wrong for when early weekday Mass was held at St. Jerome's. Mass is always said at 6:15 a.m. Mondays through Fridays at St. Jerome's, and not 6:30 a.m., according to priests and nuns at the church interviewed by police. There's also a published schedule of Masses that confirms those times. Early Sunday Mass is always held at 6:30 a.m.
Billy Doe told the grand jury that a week after this first meeting with Father Engelhardt, Billy was serving at another 6:30 Mass when Father Engelhardt raped him. So Billy's story to the grand jury was that he served at two 6:30 a.m. Masses with Father Engelhardt within a week of each other while he was a fifth-grade altar boy during the 1998-99 school year.
On April 25, 2012, when Billy Doe testified at the trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn, the prosecutor narrowed the date for that first 6:30 Mass with Father Engelhardt down to two possible months:
Q. Did there come a time when you served a Mass with Father Charles Engelhart in the winter of 1998 or 1999, depending, December, January?
When Billy was asked about the second Mass he served with Father Engelhardt, "about a week and a half, two weeks after that."
Q. Do you remember what time that Mass was or if it was a weekday or a weekend?
A. A weekend Mass.
This time, Billy said it was a weekend Mass, which starts at 6:30 a.m. on Sundays at St. Jerome's. But there were no 6:15 a.m. or 6:30 a.m. Masses marked down for Billy on his mother's calendars for either December 1998 or January 1999.
There was an 8 a.m. Mass for Billy in January 1999, and two 9 a.m. Masses in March. But no 6:15 or 6:30 a.m. Masses were listed for Billy Doe on his mother's calendars for the entire 1998-99 school year while Billy was in fifth grade.
It's not the only time that Billy Doe's story didn't check out.
Billy Doe claimed that Father Edward Avery raped him after the priest said a funeral Mass at St. Jerome's. But Billy gave two different times for the rape by Avery.
On Jan. 28, 2010, Billy Doe told Detective Drew Snyder that during an encounter with Father Engelhardt in July 1999, [Billy] "is serving a funeral Mass with Father Avery. Father Avery sends the other altar servers home and told [Billy] it is time for their next session," after which Father Avery raped Billy.
On April 25, 2012, Billy Doe told the jury at the trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn that he was raped by Father Avery "prior to the spring, like coming into Spring:"
Q. You're still in fifth grade?
Q. So spring of '99
Q. You're still 10 years old.
St. Jerome's keeps a register of funerals, listing the priest who officiated at each Mass. Those records were turned over to the district attorney's office as evidence on March 5, 2010, by Father Joseph B. Graham, pastor of St. Jerome's. The pastor died on Dec. 28, 2010, seven months after he testified before the grand jury on May 11, 2010.
"He was never the same when he came back from that grand jury," said Father Joseph E. Howarth, a longtime friend of Father Graham's.
The hand-written records show more than 80 funerals during the 1998-1999 school year when Billy was in fifth grade. Father Avery only did one funeral Mass that year, according to the register.
It was on March 2, 1999. Not July, like Billy Doe told the police, and certainly not early spring, like he told the jury at the Lynn trial.
But the funeral Mass said by Father Avery was held at Nazareth Hospital, where Father Avery served as a chaplain, and not at St. Jerome's, according to the hand-written notes on the church register.
So Billy's story of serving at a funeral Mass officiated at St. Jerome's by Father Avery cannot possibly be true, unless the church records turned over by the pastor were doctored.
There are other holes in Billy's stories.
Billy Doe claimed that he would switch Masses with other altar servers when he found out he was scheduled to serve a Mass with either Father Engelhardt or Father Avery.
Billy told the grand jury that after Father Engelhardt raped him, "every time I would see him, I just kind of stayed away from him. If I had a Mass with him, I would switch it. I basically ignored him, stayed out of his way."
Billy told the grand jury that after Father Avery raped him, he would also switch Masses that he was scheduled to serve as an altar boy with Father Avery.
Q. Was there ever a time during this time period when you were scheduled to perform Mass that you were on the schedule for Mass with Father Avery or Father Engelhardt and didn't participate in the Mass?
Q. And why was that?
A. I just didn't want to be near them.
Q. So how would you arrange it so you didn't have to perform Mass with them?
A. I would just ask another altar server to switch with me.
But on his mother's calendars, no switch dates for Masses are recorded for Billy during the entire 1998-1999 school year.
And it not's like Mom didn't put Mass switches on the calendar. On Feb. 26, 2000, when Billy was in sixth grade, his mother wrote on the calendar that Billy was serving the 5 p.m. Mass and then she wrote down on March 19th, the second sunday of Lent, a note that her son had "switched [March 19th] with Jason for Feb. 26."
Billy Doe's older brother was also an altar boy. Wouldn't he have been a logical candidate for Billy to switch Masses with?
On Jan. 9, 2012, Billy's older brother, then a 26-year-old lawyer, sat down in the district attorney's office to answer some questions. Back in 1998-99 when Billy was a fifth-grader at St. Jerome's, his brother was an eighth grader. Besides being an altar boy, Billy's brother was also a sexton at St. Jerome's.
Billy's brother told the police that switching Masses wasn't that easy to do, because you didn't just need to find another altar boy to switch with, you also had to get Father Graham's approval:
Q. Did you ever switch Masses -- serving a Mass with [Billy]?
Q. How did you find out which Mass you were assigned to be an altar server?
A. Father Graham made up the schedule for I believe a month and I would give it to my mom and she put it on the refrigerator. [Billy] and I ... he was an altar server and I was in 8th grade [and] would be on the same list.
Q. If you wanted to switch serving Mass with another altar server what would you do?
A. I would need a good reason for my parents -- If I wanted to switch with someone -- Next I would have to get approval from Father Graham and call the altar server you wanted to switch with.
There's a few more facts that contradict Billy Doe's stories.
Billy implied to the grand jury that altar boys knew weeks in advance which priest would celebrate which Mass. But that's not how the system worked, as priests from St. Jerome's have told the district attorney's office.
Father Joseph E. Howarth used to work as a substitute priest at St. Jerome's, saying Mass and hearing confessions. In an interview for this blog, Father Howarth, who was not interviewed by the district attorney's office, told the same story that other priests told the D.A., namely that St. Jerome's "did not publish the list of the celebrants," as Father Howarth put it.
Pastor Graham would compose the list of celebrants the week before, after consulting with the priests. And then he would hang the list of celebrants in the rectory, and sometimes also the sacristy, Father Howarth said. But the list of celebrants wasn't handed out to the altar boys. So when altar boys typically showed up for church, "They don't know who the celebrant is until he walks in," Father Howarth said.
Howarth has been the pastor of the Church Of The Resurrection Of Our Lord since 2007. He said the sacristy at St. Jerome's, where Billy Doe claimed Father Engelhardt had raped him, was "the size of like a walk-in closet."
"There was constant traffic going back and forth there," Father Howarth said. "There was very little privacy."
The sacristy, since remodeled, had four doors when Billy was a fifth grader. One door led to the only bathroom in the church and when it was used by parishioners, they had to cut through the sacristy. A second door opened into a storage room, a third door opened onto the side of the church, and a fourth door opened directly into the sanctuary.
The walls of the sacristy weren't soundproof.
"You could sneeze in that sacristy and somebody in the first pew would say," God bless you," Father Howarth said. The idea that any priest would attempt to rape an altar boy in the sacristy was beyond belief, Father Howarth said.
Especially if that priest was Father Engelhardt.
"I've known Charles Engelhardt since our days growing up in Kensington," Father Howarth said. "I brought him here" to be the assistant pastor back in the 1990s at the Church Of The Resurrection Of Our Lord.
Father Engelhardt would be embarrassed just to say the things that Billy Doe has accused him of doing, Father Howarth said. "He’s just the type of guy of if you talked about that type of thing he would blush. He would turn six shades of red."
Howarth went to visit his old friend last week at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road, where Father Engelhardt awaits sentencing on March 18 in the courtroom of Judge Ellen Ceisler. Father Engelhardt is facing a maximum jail sentence of 37 years.
"He seems to be holding up," Father Howarth said. "The only reason he can do that is because he has such a clear concscience that it [the rape] did not happen. It's a perfectly concocted story."