Investigation into Sex Claims against Local Priest Continues

By John DeSantiis
Houma Today
December 10, 2007

HOUMA — Three months have passed since the pastor of Annunziata Catholic Church was accused of sexually molesting a child while assigned to a Morgan City church more than a decade ago.

Two investigations into allegations from a lone adult complainant against the Rev. Etienne LeBlanc — by the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux as well as the Morgan City Police Department — continue.

"It's still an ongoing investigation," said Sgt. Teddy Liner, the Morgan City detective who has handled the case since receiving a formal complaint in late August. "Hopefully we can know where we are headed within the next few weeks."

For now, detectives have focused on trying to corroborate claims made by the alleged victim with known facts about LeBlanc's time of service, who was working in the rectory of Holy Cross Church, where the incidents were reported to have occurred, and other details.

There were no witnesses to the alleged incidents, although LeBlanc's accuser said a priest once assigned to Holy Cross saw him leave the rectory in tears after what he described as a primary encounter.

LeBlanc, Liner said, is currently out of state, but police are aware of his whereabouts. After the allegations were made, LeBlanc — in accordance with diocesan procedure — began to receive counseling and evaluation.

An investigator employed by the diocese, said to be a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has been in touch with Liner, and the two have compared notes.

Of particular interest to Liner as well as the diocese are claims by the complainant that other boys also were victimized by LeBlanc. But the complainant has thus far refused to disclose their names and has said those individuals, now grown men, have expressed no interest in coming forward.

Diocesan spokesman Louis Aguirre said the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese "will withhold comment until both the civil and diocesan investigations are completed."

Even if the police investigation results in no criminal charges, diocesan policy permits officials to keep LeBlanc from continuing to serve in an active capacity should they choose to go that route.

The complainant, a 25-year-old unemployed man currently jailed on a bad-check charge and a parole violation resulting from that arrest, said trysts with LeBlanc occurred from when he was about 11 until he was 14. The activity, he alleged, began when he sought to become an altar boy but was told that he was too young.

In an interview, the complainant said that LeBLanc told him he could become an altar boy if he performed favors for him. The diocesan vicar general, the Rev. Jay L. Baker has visited the accuser and offered pastoral and counseling services. During that visit, which occurred in August, the accuser said he did not want the information made public.

"He stated father LeBlanc told him if he ever told anyone no one would believe him because he was a priest," states the police report on which the criminal investigation is based.


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