Prince George's Grand Jury Indicts Catholic Priest

Washington Post
January 15, 1997

A Prince George's County grand jury yesterday indicted a Roman Catholic priest living in New Jersey on charges that he sexually abused a 10-year-old boy in the late 1970s, when he was pastor of a Washington church. Robert Joseph Petrella, 59, is accused of molesting the youth during automobile trips from the St. Thomas More parish in Washington to the youth's home in Prince George's County from November 1977 to December 1978, prosecutors said.

The abuse normally occurred in the parking lot of the youth's apartment complex, said state's attorney spokeswoman Paula Burr. She said the victim recently came forward with his allegations. Petrella, no longer an active priest, lives in North Arlington, N.J., Burr said. If convicted of the four counts of child abuse and sexual offenses, Petrella could be be sentenced to up to 35 years in prison.


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