Accusations Yield No Added Charges : Law: but Two Women Could Testify in a Pending Case against a Former San Bernardino Priest.

By Michael Fisher
Press Enterprise
September 28, 2002

A former Inland priest charged with sexually abusing a teenage

girl in 1972 will not face additional counts for allegedly

molesting two other girls, prosecutors said Friday.

The new allegations against Monsignor Patrick O'Keeffe do not

involve substantial sexual conduct, which is required in order

for the statute of limitations to be waived, according to Deputy

District Attorney Laura Robles.

However, Robles said she intends to call the women as witnesses

to testify in the pending case against O'Keeffe.

The names of the cleric's accusers have not been released. None

of the girls, now adults, know each other, San Bernardino County

sheriff's detectives said.

The 67-year-old retired priest was charged in July with 15

felony counts of oral copulation with a minor stemming from his

alleged 1972 involvement with a 17-year-old parishioner at St.

Adelaide Catholic Church in Highland.

A second woman alleged last month that O'Keeffe also molested

her in 1971 when she was a 17-year-old parishioner at the same

church, detectives said.

O'Keeffe's third accuser alleges the priest molested her when

she was 14 years old at a church in Chino in the early 1990s,

investigators said.

Detectives have been unable to locate O'Keeffe, who was last

living in Laguna Niguel. He reportedly told close friends that

he planned to return to his native Ireland.

The Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the Diocese of San

Bernardino, declined to comment Tuesday, saying he had no

information about either of the latest allegations against

O'Keeffe. Lincoln said neither accuser has contacted the

diocese, which encompasses Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

O'Keeffe, a priest in San Diego and the Inland area since 1959,

had worked in the diocese since it was created out of the

Diocese of San Diego in 1978. He served as pastor at St.

Adelaide from 1971 to 1976.

Lincoln previously said his diocese dismissed O'Keeffe from all

parish duties in 1994 after it reached a confidential settlement

to end a lawsuit brought by one of three adult women who had

accused O'Keeffe of sexual misconduct.

O'Keeffe retired as a priest in 1999, but had been teaching

religion at St. Anne Elementary and Middle School in Laguna

Niguel in 1997. He was dismissed by the Orange County school

after the first woman's allegations surfaced in April.

Lincoln said the diocese erred in 1997 by not telling school

administrators about the previous allegations of sexual

misconduct against O'Keeffe when St. Anne's asked the diocese

about the priest's past.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about

O'Keeffe's whereabouts to call detectives at (909) 387-3615.

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