Alleged victims told authorities Lafayette Diocese priest abused them; priest not on list of accused
By Ben Myers
May 10, 2019
|Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel speaks during a press conference regarding allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest Monday, June 4, 2018, at the Diocese of Lafayette office in Lafayette, La.|
Photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK
A Lafayette Diocese priest was accused of molesting minors during a monthslong State Police investigation in 2015 and 2016. Two alleged victims told authorities that former Rev. Albert Nunez had either sexually abused or attempted to abuse them in the 1970s, but the investigation was closed because the alleged victims did not press charges, according to a State Police report.
Nunez is not included in the diocese’s list of 37 clergymen “credibly accused” of sexual abuse against minors and vulnerable adults. The Lafayette Diocese last month became the last in Louisiana to release such a list, following months of public outcry.
One of Nunez’s alleged victims, who told authorities that Nunez had succeeded in abusing him, also told State Police that his late brother had confided in family members that he too was abused by Nunez. The victim, who had not initiated contact with investigators, told police he had reached a point of healing, but the investigation had reopened his wounds.
“(The victim) confirmed his abuser was Nunez; however, (the victim) seemed extremely reluctant to pursue the criminal matter any further,” the report states.
The Advocate on Friday issued a query to the diocese concerning its knowledge of the investigation. The diocese then disclosed in a news release that it had cooperated with a State Police investigation into Nunez. Authorities instructed the diocese not to inform Nunez of the allegations or take any action, “since they intended to interview Father Nunez before he knew about the claims,” according to the diocese statement.
The State Police report does not mention any attempt to interview Nunez, who retired in 2018 and currently resides in a diocesan nursing home in New Iberia.
Asked if the diocese had been informed of the investigation, and if investigators had confronted Nunez, a State Police spokesman, Nick Manale, did not answer directly.
“We will let the report speak for itself as far as the investigation. The Diocese may be able to answer specific inquiries concerning them,” Manale said in an email.
In a Friday evening call after the diocese issued its news release, staff at the nursing home said Nunez requested the reporter call back the following morning. When an Advocate reporter attempted to visit Nunez at the nursing home on Saturday, staff said the visit must be arranged through the diocese central office. A request to visit Nunez was pending.
Another alleged victim told authorities that he slept in Nunez’s bed — a small bed, no larger than a double — when he was between the ages of 12 and 14, according to the State Police report. Nunez had asked the boy’s parents if they would allow him to spend the night at Nunez’s home, according to the report.
In an interview with The Advocate, that alleged victim said his mother pressured him to stay with Nunez at the rectory at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Church Point. He said he awoke in the middle of the night to Nunez “spooning” him.
“He kind of had his legs locked into my ankles, and it scared the hell out of me,” said the alleged victim, who asked to remain anonymous. “I thought it was kind of strange because he had us in the same bedroom, in the same bed. I wasn’t old enough to know anything about sex.”
Despite the authorities’ request not to contact Nunez, he “was eventually informed and adamantly denied the claim,” according to the diocese’s statement, which does not say when or why Nunez was informed.
“Given a lack of information, the lack of the names of any claimants, the lack of any knowledge from those interviewed, the determination of the State Police to close their investigation, and, of importance, the presumption of innocence — no action was warranted,” the diocese said in its statement.
When releasing its list of accused clergymen, the diocese defined a credible accusation as one “the average person” would consider believable.
“Accordingly, a ‘credible accusation’ is not to be considered a legal determination that the allegation has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt or by a preponderance of the evidence,” the diocese said in a statement accompanying the list.
The diocese said in its statement that it had questioned clergy and individuals who worked closely with Nunez during the time of the allegations, but none had “knowledge of anything to support claims of sexual abuse.”
A clergyman who served at the same time as Nunez told State Police that Nunez befriended several teenage boys, to “care for them” and “mentor them,” according to the police report. This included overnight visits.
“He said Nunez was trying to ‘lead them to God,’ ” the report states.