Priest with Barksdale Ties Indicted Again

By John Andrew Prime
Shreveport Times [Louisiana]
May 25, 2007

A priest with ties to Barksdale Air Force Base, indicted last year on charges of molesting two boys in the 1980s in Arizona, has been indicted there again on similar charges involving another boy, The Times' sister Gannett paper in Tucson says.

The Rev. Gary Edward Underwood, 53, a major and a military priest at Barksdale, was indicted by a Pima County grand jury April 24 on one count each of molestation of a child and sexual conduct with a minor under 15, the Tucson Citizen reports. The acts allegedly occurred between Aug. 1, 1985, and Jan. 31, 1986, .

In November, Underwood was indicted by a grand jury on one count of molestation of a child and two counts of sexual conduct with a minor under 15, from March 21, 1983, through March 21, 1984, and six counts of molestation of a child and one count of sexual conduct with a minor under 15 from Oct. 8, 1983, through Oct. 8, 1984. The ages of the boys from the November and April indictments were not available.

Underwood, who posted bond in the earlier cases, pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains free on bond, court records show. According to published reports, he pleaded not guilty to the newest charges May 1 and is scheduled to reappear in court in Tucson July 10.

Underwood was shifted from religious duties to an office slot under the director of staff at the 2nd Bomb Wing pending resolution of the legal proceedings, base officials said last year at the time of the first indictment. He had been the base's senior Catholic chaplain since 2005, officials said.

He was relieved of religious duties in early August after a visit by Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, under which Underwood served. Higgins also briefed the Catholic Diocese of Shreveport of the allegations against Underwood.

"No allegations have been made stemming from Father Underwood's time here," said then-Bishop William B. Friend of the Shreveport Diocese, who stressed that Underwood never appeared on its clergy roster. "The clergy from within our diocese have been very responsive in stepping in to provide needed ministry to what has historically been a vibrant and active faith community on base."

Underwood's attorney, Dan Cooper, told the Citizen that Underwood is innocent and ready to fight the charges at trial.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson is not paying for Underwood's defense and won't act on any of his allegations until the cases are settled, the diocese told the Citizen last year.

Underwood, who was ordained in 1980, served at St. Odilia Catholic Church in the Tucson diocese from March 1983 through September 1987, the diocese said. Then Underwood volunteered to join the military chaplaincy.

Underwood had no previous allegations against him before last year, according to the diocese.

The Tucson diocese filed for bankruptcy in 2004 after lawsuits were filed over the sexual misconduct allegations, the Citizen reports. The next year it agreed to pay $22.3 million to more than 50 victims of sexual abuse by priests, the paper said.



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