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  In Sex Case, Marshals Tracked Suspect for More Than a Year

By Tim Bryant and Amy Pray
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
August 18, 1995

For more than a year, federal marshals here quietly kept track of a man they knew was wanted in Australia on charges he sexually abused schoolchildren but were powerless to arrest him.

Only this week, when marshals finally took Gregory J. Sutton into custody, did they learn that he was the principal of a Catholic grade school in Florissant. Sources said Thursday that Sutton, 44, of Shrewsbury, knew he was under investigation in Australia while he worked here.

Two marshals went to Sutton's house Monday and arrested him without incident.

"He said, 'Come in, gentlemen; it's hot outside,' " said one of the marshals, Paul "Skip" Rutkowski.

Sutton said little when the marshals told him why he was under arrest. "He just hung his head," Rutkowski said.

Sutton, who served two years as principal at St. Dismas Catholic School, wore glasses and an orange jail jumpsuit for his appearance Thursday in federal court. U.S. Magistrate Judge David D. Noce scheduled an extradition hearing for Aug. 28, the same day classes are scheduled to start at St. Dismas.

Federal authorities said they had no indication that Sutton had acted inappropriately with any students at St. Dismas. The school has about 235 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Meanwhile, waxers buffed school hallways as teachers prepared Thursday for the start of another school year. Teachers declined to talk about Sutton. The pastor, the Rev. Paul Anthony, declined to say whether Sutton's Australian references had been checked before he got the principal's job.

George Henry, superintendent of education for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, said that on his job application Sutton answered "no" to questions about whether he had been accused of child abuse or other felonies.

Jack Pelzer, a member of the St. Dismas school board in Sutton's first year as principal, said he had no complaints about Sutton. Pelzer's wife, Joan, organizes the church's weekly rosary. She said: "Everyone liked Mr. Sutton. I say he's innocent until proven guilty."

Maryfran Lancaster, who has two children at the school, said the charges against Sutton seem "totally out of character." She described Sutton as professional, somewhat strict and authoritarian. Sutton wrote weekly newsletters about morality, ethics and parents' duties as role models, Lancaster said.

"And the kids liked him very much," she added.

Never Tried to Hide

Sutton said nothing Thursday in court, where Noce ordered that he remain in custody pending the extradition hearing. Federal marshals held Sutton at the Franklin County jail in Union. Marshals allowed Sutton to lean over a courtroom railing to hug his wife, Barbara, before leading him away.

Deputies learned in February 1994 that Sutton was living in the area, said Marvin Lutes, chief deputy of the U.S. Marshals Service here. Australian authorities issued arrest warrants for Sutton in 1992 and 1993 on charges he sexually abused four youngsters at the school where he taught in Lismore, New South Wales.

Australian authorities, suspecting Sutton was in the United States, had asked the State Department to locate him. Only after completing the many details of a formal extradition request did a judge here issue an arrest warrant this week.

Sutton's lawyer, Arthur S. Margulis, said Sutton never tried to hide his identity, adding that his client had been unaware he was under investigation in Australia.

Sources disputed that, alleging that Sutton knew of the allegations after leaving his homeland in 1989. At least in part because he is married to an American, Sutton has permanent resident status in the United States, sources said.

A court document made public Wednesday details charges that Sutton sexually abused two boys and two girls at St. Carthages Primary School in Lismore. The students were 10 and 12 years old when the abuse began, the document alleges.

Court records reveal that Sutton was a teaching brother with the Marist Brothers Order at St. Carthages School from 1985 to 1987.

Beginning in March 1986, Sutton began sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl student, Australian authorities allege. The abuse allegedly included sexual intercourse. During roughly the same time, Sutton allegedly fondled a 10-year-old boy at the school.

Sources said Sutton lived in Chicago after entering the United States but spent a few months in a treatment program in Canada. The registrar's office at Loyola University in Chicago said Sutton earned a master's degree in organization development in 1992.

Sutton also got married in 1992 and moved to St. Louis about a year before landing the principal's job at St. Dismas.

 
 

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