More Questions Raised About Priest’s Behavior
By Stacy Lange
April 14, 2014
SCRANTON — While Roman Catholic priests in our area are committed to Holy Week these days. A priest in the Diocese of Scranton may be facing more trouble.
Court papers filed by Lackawanna County detectives focus on the questionable behavior of the former pastor of Saint Peter’s Cathedral already facing charges.
Newswatch 16 obtained a copy of a search warrant Scranton Police filed after they went to the rectory at St. Peter’s Cathedral earlier this month to arrest Father Phil Altavilla. Investigators need the warrant to search the priest’s computer and phone.
A search warrant approved by a magistrate in Lackawanna County says more about what Fr. Phil Altavilla told his alleged victim. The warrant describes a recorded conversation with her just before the priest’s arrest on child sex abuse charges.
Earlier this month, the woman came forward saying one of the most popular priests in the Diocese of Scranton inappropriately touched her when she was 13. She said it all happened in a parking lot in west Scranton after Christmas Eve midnight mass in 1998.
According to the search warrant, more than fifteen years later, Fr. Altavilla explained to his alleged victim that he touched her legs and feet because he has a foot fetish.
The paperwork reads, “he took photographs of the victim`s feet, in addition to photos of other teenage girls’ feet. He kept the photos in a bag at his residence.”
That residence is the Rectory at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, where Altavilla lived before his arrest. Police said those pictures could mean that there are more victims.
The search warrant also sheds light on more of Fr. Altavilla’s questionable behavior.
The search warrant says, “Altavilla also admitted that he uses the internet to research videos and images depicting women being strangulated, given chloroform, and then sexually assaulted.”
The priest willingly gave up his computer, Ipad, and cell phone for investigators to search. Investigators will wait to see if what they find on those devices leads them to more charges against Altavilla or more victims.
Scranton Police detectives said it may take weeks for investigators to search Altavilla’s computer and phone.
They have not said if they’ve identified any more potential victims.
Altavilla has been removed as Pastor at St. Peter’s Cathedral. He is due in court later this month.