Activists Say Convicted Priest Lives Too Close to Child-Care Facility

By Jim Salter
The Associated Press, carried in [St. Louis MO]
November 21, 2005

ST. LOUIS - For nearly three months after his conviction for sexually abusing a boy in the 1970s, a retired Roman Catholic priest lived in a retirement home next to a child-care facility in St. Louis County, apparently in violation of state law.

On Monday, the St. Louis Archdiocese said it has moved the Rev. Thomas Graham to a different facility, away from children.

The announcement came after the activist group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) revealed earlier Monday that Graham was living at the Regina Cleri retirement home in Shrewsbury, a suburb of St. Louis.

The Berry Patch child-care facility is separated from the retirement home by a wooded area, but is on the same sprawling property as the retirement home. State law forbids convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or child-care facility.

The Berry Patch is not affiliated with the Catholic Church but leases space from a parish on the site. A woman identifying herself as director of the Berry Patch declined comment.

In a written statement, the archdiocese did not say where Graham would be relocated, and a spokesman declined further comment.

"While his appeal is pending, he will be residing in a monitored environment," the statement read.

SNAP national director David Clohessy said he was pleased by the decision to move Graham, but wondered why it took so long.

"He certainly should have been moved sooner," Clohessy said. "We hope it's a state-run, secure facility, and not one overseen by nuns and priests."

Graham was convicted Aug. 31 and released on a $500,000 appeal bond posted by the archdiocese. He was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison, but remains free on the appeal bond. It wasn't clear when he would be placed in prison.

Prosecutors said Graham sodomized the boy in the late 1970s in the rectory of St. Louis' Old Cathedral. He has denied sexually abusing the boy.

Graham's lawyer, Christian Goeke, has said Graham is appealing both the trial and the constitutionality of the 36-year-old statute used to indict and prosecute him. Graham's lawyers contended the statute of limitations had run out on the alleged crimes. Prosecutors cited a 1969 law that has no statute of limitations for "abominable and detestable crimes against nature."

Graham's case has been seen as a test on the use of that old law. Prosecutors have said at least one case is waiting on the outcome.


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