Ex-Downers Grove Deacon Pleads Guilty to Sex Abuse

By Emily McFarlan
Naperville Sun
November 6, 2007,6_1_NA06_BLATTEL_S1.article

A former Downers Grove church deacon pleaded guilty last week to sexually abusing his then-88-year-old mother-in-law.

Howard L. Blattel, 67, pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse Oct. 30 in Gadsden, Ala., where he has lived since 2003.

Blattel previously lived in Bolingbrook. He served during the late 1990s and earlier this decade as a deacon at Marquette Manor Baptist Church and Academy in Downers Grove.

"My mother will be 92 in April, and she's just glad it's all over now," said Kenneth Keelin, the victim's son.

The charges arose from a sexual assault while the victim lived with Blattel and his wife in 2004. The victim said Blattel entered her room during the night and assaulted her.

A trial was expected to begin last Tuesday until Blattel entered his plea after the judge ruled testimony from five prior victims of sexual abuse by Blattel, spanning 40 years, was admissible at trial. During the sentencing hearing, those victims were allowed to address the court.

Last year Blattel was investigated for multiple allegations of child molestation dating back to 1973 in the Kansas City, Mo., area, where he and his family also have lived. But Missouri statutes of limitations expired on any criminal charges that might have been filed against the one-time deacon before he could be brought to trial there.

All of the known victims were members of the family, Kenneth Keelin said.

"The family has really been supportive of the victims. It's always been, 'I'm so glad you've come forward,'" his wife, Valerie Keelin, said. "I'm an in-law in this family, and I'm proud to be one."

Etowah County, Ala., Deputy District Attorney Carol Griffith praised both the victims and other family members in a written statement released this week.

Blattel was sentenced to five years in the Alabama state penitentiary, which Kenneth Keelin said he will serve on probation. He also was ordered to pay various costs and restitution and will be subject to the terms and conditions of the Community Notification Act.

Contact Emily McFarlan at or 630-416-5196.


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