Howell ex-pastor’s sex abuse scandal: Why did students come forward decades later?

Asbury Park Press

January 19, 2021

By Kathleen Hopkins

Soon after news broke about the arrest on sex charges of a beloved former pastor of St. Veronica R.C. Church in Howell, two alumni of the parish’s grammar school came forward in 2019 with allegations that the priest acted inappropriately when they were students at the school decades ago.

One of the women told detectives the Rev. Henry “Brendan” Williams kissed her repeatedly and patted her on the buttocks one afternoon in 1983, when she was 12.

The other said she thought Williams was going to kiss her after he took her aside to an office to show her something, but she got up and left before anything could happen. The woman said she was 13 when that occurred in 1983.

The Rev. Henry ‘Brendan’ Williams, former pastor of St. Veronica Church in Howell, is shown after his arraignment on child sex abuse charges in State Superior Court in Freehold Monday, January 6, 2020.

Williams, now 81, is not charged in connection with either women’s story, but prosecutors want the women to testify at Williams’ upcoming trial on charges he sexually assaulted another child in the late 1990s.

Defense attorney Robert Konzelmann is trying to block the testimony, questioning why the women took 36 years to come forward to authorities with the allegations and suggesting they did so at a time when attorneys handling clergy sex-abuse lawsuits were flooding the airwaves with advertisements for clients.

Thomas Fichter, an assistant Monmouth County prosecutor, acknowledged the statute of limitations has long passed to prosecute crimes that may have occurred in 1983, but said the earlier events are relevant to the case at hand because the stories of the two women are similar to that of the victim in the case for which Williams is under indictment.

That victim was 12 when she claims Williams touched her inappropriately, on her inner thigh and vaginal area, on two different occasions at two different restaurants while she was with her parents and a third time at her home, according to Fichter.

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