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  No Evidence Found Accused Priest Had More Victims

By Tom Farmer
Boston Herald
January 17, 2002

While parishioners of a Haverhill church remained stunned yesterday over the revelation a beloved priest allegedly raped a teenage girl, sources said investigators have uncovered no evidence there are other victims in the case.

The Rev. Kelvin E. Iguabita, 33, was on a leave of absence from the Archdiocese of Boston when allegations surfaced last November that he sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl who worked in the office of All Saints Church during the summer of 2000.

"We have no indication that there are other victims involved here," said one source yesterday. "As of now, it looks like only this one girl was involved."

Iguabita, a native of Colombia, was ordained in May 1999 in Boston and was a rising star in the archdiocese when he abruptly asked for a leave of absence last July and took a job with a Cambridge-based mental health provider directing a Merrimack Valley group home.

Iguabita had been at the Haverhill church from June 1, 1999, to June 5, 2000, before being promoted to the Metropolitan Tribunal of Boston - the church's so-called "marriage court."

The Rev. Dennis Nason, All Saints' pastor, said the church planned to send the Spanish-speaking Iguabita to Catholic University in Washington, D.C., to get a degree in canon law.

Iguabita was "loved here in the parish," Nason said, and news of his arraignment Tuesday in Haverhill District Court on two counts of child rape and a single count of assault with intent to rape devastated parishioners.

"It has struck us right here," Nason said, placing his hand over his heart, "and we're taking it to heart. The heart is kind of weeping. He was someone we looked up to, and loved, and admired and supported. Wow, can you believe it?"

Sources said investigators learned of the alleged assaults last November after the victim made statements to a medical counselor, who was required by state law to report the alleged abuse. The counselor notified the state Department of Social Services and the archdiocese, sources said, and DSS investigators in turn contacted Haverhill police.

A warrant for Iguabita's arrest was obtained Jan. 8 and he surrendered at the Haverhill police station Monday night after he learned he was being sought. Sources said he was not under investigation when he took a leave of absence from the church last July. "We have no knowledge that he knew this was coming," said a source. "For all we know, he just decided he didn't want to be a priest anymore."

The day after the warrant was obtained, Bernard Cardinal Law announced a new policy requiring all of the archdiocese's clergy, employees and volunteers to report allegations of sexual abuse.

In apologizing for the actions of pedophile priests, Law said, "There is nobody, nobody in an assignment in this archdiocese now, no priest in an assignment in this archdiocese now, that I'm aware of, who is guilty of sexually abusing a minor."

Sources said the archdiocese did not go public when the Iguabita allegations came to light in November because he had not been charged and authorities feared he was a flight risk because he had been in the country only seven years and had no ties here.

The archdiocese put out a detailed release the day Iguabita was arraigned, including an affidavit from the alleged victim with her name removed that gives a graphic account of the sexual contact between her and Iguabita in the church office over a four-month period beginning in July 2000.

The archdiocese said it contacted the alleged victim's family when the allegations surfaced in November and the girl's mother said she is happy with the way the archdiocese has handled the case.

"(The cardinal) had to be quiet, but was there support? Definitely, definitely," the mother told The Eagle-Tribune, adding there was concern "the guy was going to take off."

Nason said he will address the case during services Sunday.

"It's a difficult time for the parishioners and staff, but it's an especially difficult time for the victim," he said. "That's why my heart and prayers go out to the victims of sexual abuse."

 
 

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