Priest Accused in '74 of Molesting in Mass. Appears to Be in Canada

By Efrain Hernandez Jr. and David Arnold
Boston Globe
August 2, 1992

A Roman Catholic priest who disappeared in 1974 after being charged with molesting two teen-agers in Worcester apparently has been living in New Brunswick, Canada, for the past 10 years.

Rev. Joseph Fredette, a former director of a halfway house in Worcester operated for the state Department of Youth Services, still faces six counts of moral offenses and two charges of assault and battery, authorities said.

The charges, filed in Worcester District Court in May 1974, stem from alleged incidents involving a 13-year-old boy and a 16-year-old youth at the halfway house, authorities said.

Worcester police said they have had no contact with Father Fredette since he disappeared.

Father Fredette, who was 39 when he was charged by Worcester police, now lives in a hermitage in the woods of Harcourt, New Brunswick, according to Rev. Marcel Lessard, a priest at Montmatre sanctuary in Quebec.

Like Father Fredette, Father Lessard is a member of the Augustinians of the Assumption, a missionary order.

Lessard said Fredette told him several years ago that he had been involved in a "misunderstanding" with law enforcement authorities.

"I know there was something, but the accusations were not tried," said Father Lessard. "He has always been working as a priest and nothing like that happened here."

"He told me that there was somebody who was trying to pin something on him," Father Lessard continued. "He was accused of things because of that, but he said there was nothing to any of it."

A man identifying himself as Father Fredette hung up on a Globe reporter who phoned him at his residence in New Brunswick on Friday morning and asked him to comment on the charges. Additional phone calls went unanswered.

Father Fredette's whereabouts since he disappeared are not known for certain. According to an Associated Press story at the time the charges were filed against him, Father Fredette had resigned from the Come Alive halfway house on Feb. 13, 1974. After first living in New York, the AP reported, Father Fredette moved to Quebec, where he was believed to be living at that time.

According to Father Lessard, Father Fredette was "assigned" to Quebec in the late 1970s from Massachusetts. After working there for several years, he left in 1982 for New Brunswick. Father Lessard said that Father Fredette visits Quebec every few months.

"He comes by once in a while," Father Lessard said, adding that some people donate books and clothes to Father Fredette.

At the Assumptionist Center in Brighton, a facility run by the order, a man who answered the telephone but declined to give his name said the center would have no comment regarding Father Fredette. "We've lost track of him completely," he said. "We just have no comment on this whole thing that's happening."

Father Lessard said no authorities from Massachusetts or anywhere else ever contacted the sanctuary about Father Fredette.

Worcester Police Detective Sgt. Leo Tivnan said Friday that a valid arrest warrant exists for Father Fredette and if he were apprehended he would likely be brought back for trial.


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