Kelley Arnold - the Witness
By Jay Korff
July 15, 2019
Kelley Arnold grew up in Old Town Alexandria. Arnold says a significant part of his childhood revolved around the church he and his family attended: St. Mary Catholic Church, now the Basilica of St. Mary.
Father William Reinecke began working at St. Mary when Arnold was a young teenager. Arnold says Father Reinecke was beloved and respected by parishioners. So, when Reinecke invited minor boys on overnight, out of town trips, Arnold insists no one, initially, suspected Reinecke was a serial pedophile.
Arnold, in chilly detail, now tells the never heard before stories of Father Reinecke’s grooming and eventual sexual assault of boys. Arnold’s heartfelt story of regret reveals the method of a deranged yet trusted religious leader. He hopes by coming forward others will get the help they need.
Thirteen-year-old Kelley Arnold was an altar boy at St. Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia in the mid-to-late 1960s.
The newly ordained Father William Reinecke was his priest. Arnold says Father Reinecke quickly formed friendships with children.
Arnold grew close with Reinecke, eventually addressing him by his first name.
“We lived in a tiny two-bedroom townhouse in Old Town Alexandria on Church Street near the entrance to the cemetery," Kelley Arnold says. "We would play out in the alley and Billy would pull up in his car. He drove an Oldsmobile back in those days. An Oldsmobile 85 I think is what they called it. And he’d pull up into our alley and get out and we’d shoot hoops. We had a basketball net set up behind our house and we would shoot hoops and gosh he was such a fun guy to be with. It was a wonderful time that we lived in. We just didn’t know we were living with a pedophile. In hindsight, we were living with a pedophile.”
“When you don’t know what’s going on and you don’t have suspicions of anything and we were as pure as the driven snow," Arnold adds. "You couldn’t get any cleaner than us kids.”
Father Reinecke paid altar boys to do odd jobs around the rectory and maintain the grounds of nearby St. Mary’s Cemetery.
“We were getting paid by the week for the work we did. He kept our hours. We went up there and cut grass there during the day. I was the oldest altar boy. I kind of directed the other kids, what they needed to do,” says Arnold.
Arnold says Father Reinecke would reward the boys hard work by inviting them on out of town trips.
They traveled south down I-95 for overnight trips to Williamsburg, Virginia, where Reinecke was from.
Arnold says they usually stayed at motels or inns. We located one of the motor lodges Reinecke took boys.
“It was always the case that I had a bed to myself and Billy had a bed to himself and then Billy would choose the boy that he wanted to sleep with,” says Arnold.
Arnold fears Father Reinecke sexually assaulted boys dozens of times during years of trips.
Arnold says, “There’s just no way that my parents would have thought anything was out of the ordinary anywhere along the way. It was just Billy and the kids out there.”
For a half century Arnold refused to talk publicly about the haunting playbook of Father Reinecke, until now.
“You know, there’s something very liberating about stopping the secrets and all of my adult life until Billy killed himself, all of my adult life I carried this secret and it was something I never allowed myself to think about, something I never discussed along the way," says Arnold. "I had a chance to breathe. I felt like I was being suffocated. It sounds crazy but I felt as though I had been suffocated by this whole thing."
Arnold says, in the summer 1969, Father Reinecke was delighted with the progress the altar boys made at cleaning up the cemetery grounds.
To celebrate, Arnold says Father Reinecke invited him and another altar boy on a four-day trip to the Caribbean.
Just the three of them. No other parents or chaperones.
“Billy came up with the idea that we ought to go to Puerto Rico," Arnold says. It was a wonderful time at the beach. We got out on the beach every day. And, of course, it rained in the afternoon and you’d pack your things up and the sun would come back out again. It was a boarding room is what it was.”
“He and I never had any kind of sexual contact," Arnold says. "But I did witness him contacting another kid sexually.”
“I woke up in the middle of the night and saw him performing oral sex on another altar boy and I knew I had to be quiet about that. I never said to him anything about that. We were together several times after that. In fact, I used to see him from time to time on campus at Catholic University but we never talked about it. The ironic thing is that the boy’s father was very, very high placed in the military. There was no way I could talk about it and no way he could talk about it. There was nobody that we could go to that we could discuss this with them about this situation confronting him and by extension me,” he says. “I don’t think anyone would believe me.”
Arnold says, “I have to say first and foremost that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that this happened. I was not the perpetrator but I’ve lived all my life thinking of myself as an enabler, if that makes any sense. I had nothing to do with what was going on except for the fact that in my family, we were well known in the church, and there was a feeling among some parents that if it was good enough for the Arnolds it was good enough for us. The parents loved this man. Everybody loved Billy. Everybody loved Billy. You can’t get around that fact. He was such a wonderful guy.”
“It had a big impact on me," Arnold says. "I don’t mind saying that it had an impact on me so much so that I decided at some point that I would never talk about this ever again.”
“Through the testimony of victims, the Diocese is now aware that Fr. Reinecke took trips with minors that would not be permissible under today’s standards. It became evident that some victims were abused during those trips. We do not have evidence or testimony that he took any international trips with minors.” – Diocese of Arlington
ABC7 News has learned that parents complained to church leaders about Father Reinecke’s trips with children.
Later that year he was moved to St. Charles in Arlington.
ABC7 News has learned that at least two adult men claim Reinecke sexually abused them when they were underage parishioners at St. Charles.
Reinecke attended Catholic University from 1974 to 1976.
During this time, he did not have a parish assignment and lived at Our Lady of Lourdes in Arlington and Queen of Apostles in Alexandria.
“The reason that they sent him to school, they paid for his education to move him out of parish life," Arnold says. "They were pushing him out of parish life. That was the bottom line. If you are marked so to speak for lack of a better word than the Diocese will move you around and what they did was move him up.”
Reinecke ascended to become one of the highest-ranking members of the Diocese of Arlington. In the 1980s, he worked at St. Ambrose in Annandale. From 1990-92 at St. James in Falls Church.
In 1992, a man claiming to be one of Reinecke’s victims from years ago demanded Reinecke’s resignation outside St. James.
According to published reports, Reinecke then left for a religious retreat at Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia. Two days later, Reinecke killed himself in a field near Holy Cross Abbey.
“He just knew where he had to go and he took that course," Arnold says. "No amount of love, no amount of talking could have brought him back from that point. He reached that point and that was it."
Monsignor William Reinecke is buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia, not far from the motels where he is suspected of unleashing so much horror on children.
“The Diocese of Arlington works with any victim of childhood clergy sexual abuse, offering support and counseling, regardless of when the abuse occurred. The Diocese remains ready to speak with victims or others who have not yet come forward and now want to tell their story.” – Diocese of Arlington
To report abuse: virginiaclergyhotline.com