Priest Dies after Just Months of Three-Year Sex Abuse Sentence
Clergyman Who Assaulted 47 Girls Dies of Natural Causes at the Age of 84

Guelph Mercury [Canada]
January 24, 2007

A notorious pedophile priest who assaulted girls in parishes across southwestern Ontario has died just months into his three-year prison sentence.

Retired priest Charles Sylvestre died of natural causes late Monday night after being hospitalized at Kingston Regional Hospital three days earlier, said Diane Russon, regional communications manager with Correctional Service Canada.

Charles Sylvestre leaves a Chatham courthouse in September. Sylvestre, who pleaded guilty to decades of sexual abuse, died Monday.
Photo by the Canadian Press

Sylvestre was sentenced on Oct. 6, 2006, after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting 47 girls while serving as parish priest in Chatham, Pain Court, Sarnia, London and Windsor.

One of Sylvestre's victims, Carol Mieras, said yesterday she sensed the ailing 84-year-old was near death when she visited him just hours before he died.

"It was almost like the Grim Reaper was standing on his chest, waiting," Mieras said.

"For me, I wasn't surprised that he died. He looked awful."

But she said she was glad she had the opportunity to see the sickly, feeble man one last time to reaffirm that "he has no power over me."

The Kingston woman, who grew up in Chatham, visited Sylvestre along with lawyers involved in civil lawsuits against the Diocese of London in an attempt to get a deposition from him.

"Unfortunately, there are answers to some questions that will go with him," she said.

Lawyer Paul Ledroit said Sylvestre fell ill last week, and there were concerns he wouldn't be able to testify in the civil cases.

Andrew Bradie, Sylvestre's defence lawyer, said his client's health had been failing for some time, and he showed signs of dementia and mental decline.

"He sounded very frail, he sounded weak," Bradie said of a conversation he had with Sylvestre about a week ago. The lawyer said it's unclear if being incarcerated had an effect on Sylvestre's health.

"I don't know if his spirit was broken," Bradie said.

A cause of death hasn't been released.

Russon said Correctional Service Canada will be conducting an internal investigation, and a coroner's inquest will also be held, which is standard protocol when someone dies in custody.

Russon said Sylvestre would have been eligible for day parole on April 6. His full parole eligibility date was Oct. 6, and his statutory release date was Oct. 5, 2008.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately known, but a news release from the Diocese of London said the service will likely be private.

"We continue to feel grief and shock at the revelations of his actions, and we say again that we deplore all instances of sexual abuse and sexual impropriety, especially by clergy or anyone in the church's employ, towards minors," the diocese said in a release.

Father Dan Vere, parish priest at St. Ursula's parish in Chatham, where a large number of Sylvestre's victims were abused, said he hopes Sylvestre's death brings closure.

"I hope there are ways in the future for them to come to closure and acceptance," he said. "I hope they don't feel cheated."


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