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  Headline: Priest Given 10-Year Term for Having Sex with Minor

By Karen Fernau
Phoenix Gazette
August 28, 1993

A Roman Catholic priest who called his arrest for having sex with a 14-year-old boy "a blessing" has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

"My secret is out," said the Rev. Alanson Wilputte "Lan" Sherwood, who documented 1,840 homosexual encounters since 1984.

"People now know me as who I am."

Sherwood, 48, who pleaded guilty to attempted sexual misconduct with a minor and attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, also was placed on lifetime probation.

A self-proclaimed sex addict, Sherwood said that less than 1 percent -- 22 -- of his documented homosexual encounters were with those under age 18.

In 1988, Sherwood, pastor of St. Benedict's Catholic Church in Chandler, said he decided against propositioning anyone younger than 18.

The fear of being caught, along with an understanding that sex with boys was "morally wrong," led to his decision, Sherwood said.

In sentencing the priest, Judge Cheryl Hendrix of Maricopa County said the tape of Sherwood having sex with the 14-year-old was "so sad, pathetic and disgusting."

"You must be a very lonely person."

Prosecutors have been unable to find the victim, believed to be an illegal immigrant and transient.

Hendrix called Sherwood's compulsive record-keeping depraved.

Sherwood kept index-card and computer-printout logs of more than 1,800 sexual encounters since 1984. He videotaped about 1,200 sex acts.

His records showed he spent $13,526.75 to pick up potential sex partners.

Hendrix said Sherwood failed to express enough sorrow for the victims.

"Most of your remorse is for your family, church and friends."

A Tucson youth who ended Sherwood's secret life of homosexuality said the sentence was fair.

"I wanted longer, but I understand what the judge decided," the youth said.

Blair Renfro said he was 17 when Sherwood showed him a pornographic movie and invited him to have sex.

The incident occurred on March 11 in the church rectory after Sherwood, who was ordained 18 years ago, picked up Renfro hitchhiking.

The priest told police he began picking up hitchhikers for sex in 1982.

"I was scared. I thought I was going to die and be found like one of those dead bodies in the desert," Renfro told Hendrix.

Renfro said he watched the pornographic movie out of fear and escaped as soon as he could through a bathroom window. He called police from a neighbor's house.

In a statement issued Friday, Bishop Thomas O'Brien of the Phoenix Diocese said, "Father Sherwood's conduct which led him to this point in his life was immoral and not consistent with what the Catholic Church expects from priests."

The diocese is considering dismissing Sherwood from the priesthood, officials said.

The Rev. William Messinger, a Los Angeles priest, criticized the church for not offering Sherwood counseling after his earlier arrests.

"The church is not a group of saints and angels. We are normal human beings with the same strengths and weaknesses," said Messinger, a friend of Sherwood's.

Sherwood was convicted in 1984 and 1986 of misdemeanor indecent exposure charges for masturbating at adult bookstores.

Sherwood's sister pleaded with Hendrix to sentence the priest to five years.

He faced a five- to 15-year sentence.

Martha Mathias said her brother was "not a threat to society and not a molester of children."

Calling Sherwood an intelligent priest who loved to teach, Beth Pattock, St. Benedict's religion education director, said parishioners consider Sherwood an ill, but not an evil, man.

In sentencing the priest, Hendrix suggested he teach prisoners to read while in prison.

"There are a lot of people in there who could use your help," she said.

Robert Campos, a deputy Maricopa County attorney, said Sherwood's claim that he led separate lives as a priest and a sex addict is unbelievable.

"You can't only be a priest from nine-to-five," Campos said.

In asking for a 15-year sentence, Campos said, "A priest should be held to a higher standard. It's a position of trust."

Sherwood also was fined $10,000. He must serve at least half of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

 
 

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