Man killed in N.J. crash was former Nebraska priest convicted of child sex assault

DEPTFORD (NJ) [New Jersey]

September 16, 2022

By Matt Gray

A pedestrian killed in a hit-and-run crash earlier this month in New Jersey served as a Catholic priest in Nebraska in the 1980s before he was convicted of sexual assault of a child, according to news accounts and a report by the Nebraska attorney general.

Paul F. Margand, 65, of Deptford Township, died Sept. 1 after he was struck by a car while walking along Cattel Road in Deptford shortly before 9:30 p.m., according to township police. He was taken to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where he died a short time later.

The driver did not stop, police said.

Matthew B. Jefferson, 25, of Deptford, was later identified as the motorist, Deptford police said. He was charged with second-degree leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident resulting in death and fourth-degree tampering with evidence.

Margand was serving as a priest at St. Teresa’s Catholic Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the 1980s when he was accused of sexually assaulting two boys, according to news accounts from the time and a summary of allegations compiled by Nebraska authorities.

He pleaded no contest to one count of having sexual contact with a child and was sentenced to between 20 months and five years of psychiatric treatment and prison time in 1988, according to newspaper reports and prison records.

In 1990, he was ordered to serve the remainder of his sentence in prison after receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital in Lincoln, according to another news account.

He was released from prison in January 1991, Nebraska prison records indicate.

After his release, the Catholic Diocese of Lincoln in Nebraskasent a memorandum to all bishops in the United States declaring that Margand was “not a priest in good standing,” according to a clergy sex abuse report issued last year by the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office.

That report — which is similar to reports produced by attorneys general in other states outlining how sex abuse allegations were handled by local churches — detailed “credible allegations” of sexual abuse and misconduct in Nebraska dating back to the 1930s. They involved 57 church officials, including Margand, and 258 alleged victims statewide.

Margand moved several times following his release from prison and was laicized — meaning he was stripped of his clerical status — by the Catholic Church in 2004, according to the report.

Police in New Jersey are still trying to determine if Margand was walking in the lane of travel when he was hit or on the shoulder of the roadway, authorities said last week. Officials did not immediately respond to requests for additional information about the investigation Friday.