New Molest Arrest for Former Priest
1976 Larkspur Incident Reported

By Peter Fimrite
San Francisco Chronicle
November 21, 2002

A former Larkspur priest was arrested early Wednesday for allegedly molesting and sodomizing an altar boy 23 years ago, in yet another of a series of pedophilia cases disgracing the Roman Catholic Church.

Jerome "Jerry" Leach, 52, was booked into Marin County Jail on a charge of sodomy and two counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14. He is being held on $500,000 bail.

The alleged attacks occurred in 1979 when Leach was a priest at St. Patrick's Church in Larkspur. He is also being investigated for at least one other alleged sexual assault in San Mateo County.

Detective Mike Morarity, of the Twin Cities Police Department, which handles Larkspur and Corte Madera, said the priest befriended an altar boy and, on several occasions, lured him to the home of a mutual acquaintance where he sodomized and molested the boy in and out of a hot tub.

The victim, who is now 35 but was 12 or 13 when the attacks occurred, kept the incidents to himself until early this year, when he contacted the San Francisco Archdiocese.

Leach was ordained in 1976 and worked at St. Pius Church in Redwood City until 1979, when he moved on to St. Patrick's. He worked there until 1984, according to Maurice Healy, the archdiocese spokesman.

Healy said Leach bounced around until 1991 when he was assigned to All Souls Church in South San Francisco. Then, in May 1993, he was accused of having molested a boy at All Souls when he was a deacon there in 1976.

"We suspended him from priestly ministry at that time," Healy said.

But the case was not reported to police until May, when the archdiocese furnished prosecutors in Marin, San Mateo and San Francisco with the names of about 40 accused molesters connected with the church.

The latest allegation against Leach at St. Patrick's was furnished to Twin Cities police by the alleged victim and the archdiocese at about the same time in June, Morarity said.

"We've been able to corroborate the victim's statements by obtaining two other reports of sexual misconduct," Morarity said, adding that he expects molestation charges to be filed against Leach in San Mateo County.

Leach is the latest of at least a half-dozen area priests to face criminal molestation charges.


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