Priest Facing New Sex Charges Involving Third Accuser

By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star [Tucson]
May 24, 2007

A Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson priest accused of molesting two boys during the 1980s is now facing charges that he sexually abused a third boy then.

The Rev. Gary E. Underwood, who has not worked in the local diocese since 1987, pleaded innocent to the added charges May 1 and is scheduled to reappear in court July 10.

The new indictment accuses him of both molestation and sexual conduct with a boy under the age of 15 in 1985 and 1986, when he was assigned to St. Odilia's Catholic Church, 7570 N. Paseo del Norte, on Tucson's Northwest Side.

Underwood's Tucson attorney, Dan Cooper, was not available for comment Thursday but has previously said Underwood is innocent and looking forward to defending himself against the accusations.

Under the diocese's policy on allegations of child abuse, the 53-year-old Underwood is currently suspended from the priesthood. He had been serving as a chaplain with the Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA, most recently at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La., according to the diocesan directory.

Underwood, who was ordained in the local diocese, served at St. Odilia's from 1983 to 1986, and at St. Anthony's in Casa Grande in 1987. He was initially arraigned Nov. 17 on accusations that he sexually abused two boys under the age of 15. The second indictment against him was dated April 24.

The diocese reported the first case to the Pima County Attorney's Office after getting a report from a family member of one of the men who says he was abused.

The diocese already has made public a list of 30 priests, two deacons and one nun with credible allegations of abuse against them, but Underwood is not on the list. Diocese spokesman Fred Allison said officials can't make any determination until the case has gone through the criminal justice system. He declined further comment.

The diocese created the list in 2002, six months after reaching a $14 million settlement with 10 men who said they had repressed memories of being sexually abused as children by four local clergy members in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Three priests who once worked in the diocese have already been sent to prison for sexual abuse:

- The Rev. Julían Sanz, the former pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Douglas, who in 2003 was sentenced to five years for sexually abusing an 11-year-old altar boy during confession in 1982.

- The Rev. Juan Guillen, former associate pastor at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Yuma, who is serving 10 years for two counts of attempted child molestation in connection with sexually abusing altar boys.

- The Rev. Thomas Purcell, a member of the Society of Mary Religious order, who is serving 9.5 years for sexually abusing a South Tucson boy in the 1980s.

Facing a spate of potentially expensive lawsuits over the sexual abuse by priests in 2004, the diocese entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In 2005, it became the first Catholic diocese in the country to emerge from Chapter 11 and created a fund of more than $20 million for people and family members of those who were sexually abused.

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or


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