Long before priest’s arrest for rape, his behavior was ‘alarming’ | Timeline

Cincinnati Enquirer / cincinnati.com

March 23, 2023

By Dan Horn

During his first assignment as a pastor in 2005, the Rev. Geoff Drew quickly developed a reputation among the boys at St. Rita’s Catholic school in Dayton.

Drew liked to touch them, one of the boys told prosecutors years later. He rubbed their shoulders. He put his hands on their faces. He whispered in their ears.

The behavior went on for so long and happened so often, according to court records, that more than 40 boys at St. Rita wrote a letter asking school officials to instruct Drew to “stop touching them.”

Drew didn’t stop.

Instead, the letter from the boys at St. Rita became another example of what prosecutors and some parents would later describe as Drew’s grooming behavior, the work of a sexual predator seeking out children to abuse.

It’s also another example of Drew avoiding consequences for his behavior, which went on for decades, until his arrest in 2019 on charges of raping a grade school student in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

An Enquirer review of court documents, police records and interviews with people associated with the rape case found that concerns about Drew’s conduct arose when he was a Catholic school music teacher in the 1980s and continued through his years in the seminary and as a priest.

At no point prior to his arrest did that conduct prevent Drew from working around children, even when it was witnessed by priests, school officials, parishioners, students and church employees.

Archdiocese of Cincinnati officials say Drew’s personnel file included no complaints about his behavior until 2013, which means complaints like those at St. Rita and elsewhere either were not reported to higher-ups at the church or were not placed into Drew’s records. And when top church officials did learn of complaints about Drew, they waited several years before sharing that information with parishioners.

The archdiocese’s response when it became aware of those complaints was “obviously ineffective and a mistake,” said archdiocese spokeswoman Jennifer Schack.

“It will not be repeated,” she said.

The Geoff Drew timeline

The following timeline, spanning most of Drew’s career, is based on The Enquirer’s review of court documents and other material that has emerged since Drew’s arrest. The names of the witnesses, who spoke to police and prosecutors, are not included in most documents:

Late 1980s: A former grade school student at St. Jude in Bridgetown, where Drew was a music teacher, told prosecutors that Drew rubbed his shoulders and placed his hands under his shirt on more than one occasion. Another former student said he witnessed Drew touching the child. He said boys “never wanted to get caught alone with Drew” because he was “a creep.”

1988 or 1989: A former Elder High School student said Drew took some Elder boys on a trip to Chicago, where Drew allowed them to drink alcohol and order soft-core pornography on the TV in their hotel room. Prior to that, the former student said, Drew had touched boys in ways that were “unwanted and very upsetting.” Drew was a music teacher at Elder at the time.

Late 1980s and early 1990s: A priest said he witnessed Drew inappropriately touching young boys at St. Jude. He also said he received complaints from parishioners and church employees about Drew’s behavior around children. On one occasion, the priest said, he saw Drew get into a station wagon with four or five boys. When the priest asked what was going on, Drew said they were going on vacation together.

Around 1990: Paul Neyer, who was then a student at St. Jude, told his father, Dan, that Drew asked him if he was “sexually active.” Dan Neyer said he called Drew and the principal to complain, but he said he does not believe the school took any action. Church officials said they have no record of his complaint. Decades later, police arrested Drew for raping Paul, who said he didn’t tell his parents about being abused at St. Jude until after calling police in 2019.

1990: A former Elder student said Drew invited him to his home. The boy, then 14 or 15 years old, said he accepted because he believed other students would be there, but he soon realized he was alone with Drew, who asked him to sit on the couch with him in his basement. Feeling uncomfortable, the student said he called his grandfather to pick him up when Drew left the room.

1992 to 1993: Another priest said he observed Drew touching young boys in an inappropriate manner at St. Jude, putting his hands on boys’ shoulders and rubbing them. He said he approached Drew about “crossing boundaries,” but Drew rebuffed him.

Early 2000s: A man who attended St. Anthony in Madisonville said Drew befriended him when he was a teenager and invited him to tour the seminary with him. At the time, Drew was studying to become a priest and was interning at St. Anthony. While at the seminary, Drew brought the teenager to his private room. He said someone noticed them and refused to leave Drew’s doorway until Drew and the boy left. On other occasions, he said, Drew spoke to him inappropriately, offered him a massage and touched his shoulders and back in ways that were “upsetting and alarming.” An employee at St. Anthony also told prosecutors he saw Drew with the boy at the church and seminary.

2005 to 2006: After his ordination as a priest in 2004, Drew became pastor at St. Rita in Dayton. A former student at the school said 40 to 50 boys signed their names to a typed letter asking school officials to tell Drew to stop touching them. The former student said school officials ignored their complaints and made them apologize to Drew for “being ridiculous.”

2011: A former altar boy said Drew gave him unsolicited hugs on multiple occasions. On one such occasion, he said, Drew told the boy he had nice legs and should wear long pants because his legs were distracting.

2013 to 2015: Parishioners at St. Maximilian of Kolbe in Liberty Township complained on at least two occasions about Drew touching boys’ shoulders or legs. Church officials referred the complaints to Butler County prosecutors, who later determined no crimes were committed but recommended the archdiocese more closely monitor Drew.

July 2018: Drew left St. Maximilian to become pastor at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Green Township. The archdiocese did not tell St. Ignatius parishioners about the complaints at St. Maximilian.

October 2018: The archdiocese received a letter from a St. Ignatius parishioner relating a family member’s experience with Drew years earlier, when he was a student at Elder. The former student said Drew touched his leg and made him uncomfortable. The archdiocese forwarded the complaint to prosecutors, who again determined no crimes were committed.

February 2019: Because Drew’s behavior potentially violated the archdiocese’s Decree on Child Protection, which sets policies aimed at protecting kids, church officials hired a public relations firm to investigate Drew. The firm, Strategic HR, was asked to determine whether Drew violated church policies and to make recommendations about next steps. The archdiocese did not tell St. Ignatius parishioners it hired the firm to investigate their pastor.

May 2019: Strategic HR completed its report on Drew, concluding his behavior at St. Maximilian “offended some and made others feel uncomfortable.” Drew defended himself by saying he was an affectionate person and “a hugger.” The firm recommended the archdiocese provide Drew with counseling related to how he interacts with others.

July 23, 2019: After receiving a complaint from a parent about Drew texting a St. Ignatius student, the archdiocese placed Drew on leave and planned to send him out of state for psychological treatment.

July 27, 2019: Paul Neyer told a friend who is a police officer in Cincinnati he was ready to talk to authorities about Drew raping him when he was a student at St Jude three decades earlier. Neyer said he was unaware at the time that the archdiocese had suspended Drew for his behavior at St. Ignatius. He said he learned of the suspension two days later, on July 29, when local media covered a parish meeting at St. Ignatius.

July 30, 2019: Neyer met with police in Green Township and Cincinnati to discuss the abuse he endured while at St. Jude. Archdiocese officials said they were unaware of Neyer’s meeting with police until Drew’s arrest on rape charges almost three weeks later.

Dec. 2, 2021: Drew pleaded guilty to nine counts of raping Neyer and was sentenced to seven years in prison.