Second Jesuit High Janitor Accused of Sex Abuse in 1970s Comes into Focus in New Lawsuit
By Ramon Antonio Vargas
September 20, 2019
|Bradley Dupre said he was abused by a predator janitor at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.|
Two janitors who were employed by Jesuit High School — despite prior charges of child sexual abuse — used their access at the Catholic prep's campus to molest a 10-year-old boy from the neighborhood in the late 1970s, according to a new lawsuit filed at Orleans Parish Civil District Court on Friday.
Bradley Dupree, now 50, claims in the suit he was abused by janitors Gary Sanchez and Peter Modica, who has been publicly linked to other child molestation cases over the last year. He is seeking damages from the school.
Dupree's suit is the latest turn in a child-abuse scandal that first erupted within the Catholic Church in the 1980s and has more recently reignited, damaging the venerable school along with many other Catholic institutions and orders.
“This robbed me of any potential I could have had,” Dupree, who works as a full-time caregiver for his mother in LaPlace, told reporters this week. “I’ve spent my entire life dealing with major depression, feeling worthless, having severe anxiety, insomnia, self-medicating with alcohol and drugs.
“It’s had a devastating impact.”
In a statement Friday, Jesuit said it was “saddened by any stories of abuse” but couldn't comment on the claims, citing a policy against discussing “prospective litigation.”
“We have a process in place for people to come forward to tell their story, and we are committed to that process,” the school said.
The school says it has long since implemented measures to prevent abuse that didn't exist decades ago.
The new suit comes exactly one year after Richard Windmann spoke out about the $450,000 financial settlement he said he received after confronting the school about being abused by Modica, who is now dead.
Like Windmann, who’s since become a spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Dupree lived near Jesuit but was not a student there. He said Windmann’s disclosures jogged memories he had suppressed for decades, traumatic flashes of being preyed on by Modica and Sanchez.
With the assistance of attorney Roger Stetter, who has represented a number of church abuse claimants, he sued for damages before the lapse of a one-year deadline set by the law.
|Bradley Dupre said he was abused by two predator janitors at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.|
Louisiana generally prohibits plaintiffs from collecting damages related to long-ago events, but attorneys have successfully argued that such limitations should not apply in cases where plaintiffs suppressed memories of their harm because they were so traumatized.
Dupree’s account of abuse shares key similarities with Windmann’s. They both mention an employee at the school who encountered them and their abusers mid-assault but then simply walked away.
They both recall a priest who also came in during another instance of abuse and, rather than interrupting, seemed to enjoy it. Windmann identified that clergyman as the late Cornelius “Neil” Carr, though Dupree said he wasn’t sure enough to give a name.
Carr, who died in 2013, is among dozens of Catholic priests who have been identified as clergymen faced with credible accusations of child molestation. He was at Jesuit at a time that overlaps with the abuse Dupree says he endured.
For the first time in nearly two decades, Dupree’s lawsuit also retells the story of Sanchez, a since-convicted child molester.
Sanchez had been charged with molesting a young girl a few years before meeting Dupree. That case's outcome is unclear.
Then, in early 1980, a New Orleans police report shows investigators — including Stanley Burkhardt, who’s since been unmasked as a child predator himself and is in federal prison — investigated Sanchez for allegedly having molested a number of boys, including Dupree.
Sanchez pleaded guilty to a single charge of the various he faced and was let off with probation at the end of that case. Yet he is now imprisoned after pleading guilty to attempting to rape a boy — age 5 — in Kenner in 2003.
Windmann has previously testified to being sexually abused by Burkhardt in his youth as well, and he has accused the disgraced cop of using him as “bait” to try to build cases against suspected child molesters. In a stunning turn, Windmann this week said Sanchez was one of those molesters.
The names of several other men with ties to the school about the same time Sanchez and Modica worked there appeared on a list of Jesuit order members suspected of child molestation. Besides Carr, they include Donald Dickerson, a teacher studying to be a priest; Claude Ory, a religious brother and maintenance man; and priest Edward DeRussy — all of whom were on a “credibly accused” list the order released in response to recent calls for transparency.
All except Ory, 81, had died.
Abuse claims centering on Jesuit High have already led the order to pay out millions of dollars in settlements. Other claims are pending in civil court or are being mediated privately.
‘He’s my helper’
Dupree’s suit argues that Jesuit deserves whatever consequences may come because prior leadership allowed Modica to work as the head janitor at its campus on the corner of Banks Street and South Carrollton Avenue following a child molestation conviction.
He pleaded guilty in 1963 to performing oral sex on two 13-year-old boys at a Metairie playground he supervised.
Sanchez worked as an assistant, Friday's suit said. He had also been charged with forcing oral sex on a girl on several occasions between the summer of 1976 and March 1977, when she was about 8, according to court records.
Dupree met Modica by about 1979. Like Windmann, he played basketball on goals in Jesuit’s yards with other neighborhood boys.
Modica befriended Dupree, then about 10, buying him soft drinks, a bicycle lock and other gifts. He would take him camping and on other trips.
He would let him and the other boys use the school’s bathrooms and water fountains. He introduced himself to Dupree’s mother, who was raising the boy alone.
Then, one day, Modica accompanied Dupree to the bathroom. While Dupree urinated, Modica exposed himself, put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and fondled the boy.
Modica ended up leading Dupree to his office and forcing oral sex on the boy.
“He told me, ‘It is perfectly normal, and this is something all friends do,’” Dupree recalled.
Later, Dupree said he would help Modica empty trash while school was out — and Modica molested him in classrooms, gym showers and in a portico under the second-floor library. Once, a priest walked in on Dupree and Modica in the janitor’s office, and Modica made Dupree touch Modica’s genitals, the plaintiff remembers.
The priest simply watched, Dupree recalled, until Dupree said he was uncomfortable and was allowed to go home.
Another time, on a bench in the portico, Modica claimed he was having a leg cramp and made Dupree rub it. Modica was telling Dupree how aroused he was becoming when a man who appeared to be a school employee walked up and asked what was going on.
“Mr. Pete said, ‘He’s my helper,’” Dupree recalled. Dupree recalls the man’s reply: “You need to take that inside.’”
Dupree said Modica eventually introduced him to Sanchez. Sanchez allegedly greeted Dupree with: “Pete told me what you guys have been doing.”
Dupree said Sanchez proceeded to rape him in a crawlspace above a third-floor janitorial closet at Jesuit. At his apartment, Sanchez gave Dupree marijuana as well as money to spend at the arcade, and assaulted him, the lawsuit said.
‘A terrible thing to carry around’
A 1980 police report shows a man from Dupree’s neighborhood eventually contacted the cops and reported his fear that Sanchez was a molester.
Though that man’s son was not a victim, the boy provided the names of acquaintances whom he knew Sanchez had been around.
Burkhardt, later busted on child abuse and pornography-related offenses, led the ensuing investigation. Detectives collected interviews from several boys between the ages of 9 and 12.
One — older than Dupree — recounted how Sanchez, then 28, began molesting him after he fixed the boy’s bike outside a home where he used to live in Bayou St. John no later than the summer of 1977. That boy’s family later moved at least twice, and Sanchez followed, including to the same street a block from Jesuit, said the police report, which noted Sanchez’s job at the school.
Another boy — younger than Dupree — recalled Sanchez’s raping him in a crawlspace at Jesuit as well.
One of the case's other witnesses then pointed Burkhardt to Dupree as a possible victim. Under questioning, Dupree recalled how Sanchez promised “it ain’t gonna hurt none” before abusing him the first time.
Burkhardt asked Dupree why he hadn’t told his mother.
“I thought that she would get angry with me,” Dupree said, according to a transcript of the interview.
Coincidentally, the report notes that Burkhardt had tried to question Windmann as a potential victim of Sanchez during the investigation but had not been able to locate him.
Windmann now disputes that, saying he was in regular contact with Burkhardt by then. In fact, Windmann has alleged, Burkhardt at one point set him up to be abused by Sanchez to build a case against him, though no charges were ever pursued in connection with that allegation.
Windmann recently sued the city and Burkhardt in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, and that case remains unresolved.
Authorities eventually charged Sanchez with raping four children identified during the 1980 investigation, according to a 2003 article in The Times-Picayune. Sanchez pleaded guilty to a single count of simple rape and received a suspended 15-year prison sentence, meaning he simply went on probation.
It wasn’t the last time he abused a child. In 1985, court records show, Sanchez got close to a 9-year-old boy under the ruse of looking at fishing lures and forced oral sex on him. He later pleaded guilty to indecent behavior of a juvenile and received a five-year prison sentence.
He was out by June 2002, when court records said he offered to take a 5-year-old boy — fishing with his parents in Kenner — to a nearby playground. He admitted he instead took the boy to his van and forced oral sex on him.
Sanchez pleaded guilty to attempted rape. Now 68, he is still serving a 30-year sentence at a state prison in Avoyelles Parish. His earliest release date is June 20, 2032, according to the state Department of Corrections.
Dupree this week said he hadn’t recalled speaking to the police nearly 40 years earlier until this reporter mentioned it. His attorney, Roger Stetter, argues that is part of the repressed memory aspect of the case.
Dupree's lawsuit now is more detailed than his account as a boy.
He said he can only figure he didn’t take the opportunity to mention Modica to the cops during the Sanchez investigation because he felt Modica was the closest thing he had to a father figure at the time. Sanchez, on the other hand, was not.
“Gary was more aggressive — he was forceful, and he was kind of scary,” Dupree said. “Mr. Pete had this fatherly quality.
“It’s so weird. I still call him Mr. Pete, … and he (messed) me up completely.”
Modica died in 1993 at age 69. He was working as an athletic fields maintenance man for the University of New Orleans at the time of his death, according to this obituary.
Stetter applauded Dupree for resolving to file a lawsuit and identify himself to the public.
“This is a terrible thing to carry around with you — it’s an albatross, and part of the healing process is to come out and hold accountable the people who did it and allowed it to happen,” Stetter said.
Dupree said he wonders whether he could have put a stop to Modica if he had spoken up sooner. But then he looks at Sanchez — caught repeatedly harming kids and then being allowed to continue having access to them — and thinks perhaps it wouldn’t have made any difference.
“It pisses me off,” Dupree said. “They failed in their job of protecting children, and I’m really, really angry about it all.”