Da's Office Issues Statement on Catholic Priest Abuse
By Kyle Perrotti
January 9, 2020
Following the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte’s list of clergy that have been “credibly accused” of child sexual abuse since the diocese’s creation in 1972, District Attorney Ashley Welch’s office has released a statement noting that two of the members worked in her prosecutorial district, which includes Haywood County, back in the 1970s and 1980.
The statement highlights that those who have allegations of abuse by members of the clergy can still come forward. That’s because North Carolina has no statute of limitations on sexual offenses committed against children. In fact, the statement specifically mentions the recent conviction of a former Episcopal priest who admitted to abusing children during the 1980s.
The statement notes Adelbert “Del” Holmes was “credibly accused” of committing child molestation against three minors in Murphy, in 1976 while he was a clergy member.
“The Catholic church became aware of the allegations against Holmes in 1988. Holmes was removed from the ministry in 1991. He died in 2013,” the statement reads. “Holmes was a clergy member at the St. William Catholic Church in Murphy and the Immaculate Conception Catholic Mission in Hayesville. There is no recorded documentation that the Catholic church notified local law enforcement nor the District Attorney’s Office of these allegations when the church was notified in 1988. ... Holmes died in 2013, and his death prevents the District Attorney’s Office from being able to prosecute him for crimes he is alleged to have committed in 1976.”
In addition, the statement mentions Al Behm, who was credibly accused of offenses in Kentucky during the 1970s. Behm eventually served as a campus minister at Western Carolina University, although he was not accused of committing any crimes while at the school. He left the ministry in 1993.
The state encourages anyone who has been a victim of child sexual abuse who wishes to file a report to contact their local law enforcement agency and recalls the successful prosecution of former Waynesville Episcopal Priest Howard White for crimes committed over two decades ago.
“If you have been a victim of child sexual abuse, we are committed to seeking justice for you,” Welch said in the statement. “We are able to prosecute individuals when there is probable cause even decades after the crime.”