Father Gary Underwood Update

By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star
January 8, 2008

Looks like the Rev. Gary E. Underwood may be heading to trial on charges that he molested three teenage boys during the 1980s.

Underwood, 53, is facing charges of child molestation and sexual conduct with a minor in connection with reports that he abused three boys while working as a priest at St. Odilia's Catholic Church on Tucson's Northwest Side.

Underwood is accused of molesting the three teenage boys _ all of them under the age of 15 — during the early 1980s. He had asked that the criminal case be dismissed because of the long delay in charging him. The judge didn't buy it.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Nichols denied Underwood's motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that it took prosecutors more than two decades to charge him.

In a decision issued last month, Nichols said the victims in the case didn't contact law enforcement or make their claims in any way known until June 2006. The state filed charges in November and December 2006.

"No showing has been made that the prosecution intentionally slowed the proceedings; once the alleged victims came forward the state acted in a timely fashion."

Underwood had also noted that all four of the men who lived with him in the rectory of St. Odilia's at the time of the alleged molestations are dead. Underwood said all those men, if alive, would have testified the charges are false.

But Nichols said the court is unwilling to conclude that the men who lived with Underwood would have knowledge of the allegations, or if they did, that they would necessarily support Underwood.

There's been no further court dates set in the Underwood case, pending the schedule of prosecutor Kathleen Mayer.

Underwood has not worked in the local diocese since 1987. He is currently suspended from the priesthood and working an administrative job at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La., where he had previously been a chaplain.

His attorney, Dan Cooper, says Underwood is innocent.

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 following a nearly six-month investigation into accusations that he sexually abused two boys. The second indictment against him was dated April 24.

Mayer says Underwood preyed on adolescent boys connected to the Catholic Church, providing them with pornography and alcohol prior to making sexual overtures toward them, and "often used a Jacuzzi in these crimes."

In other cases, three priests who once worked in the diocese have been sent to prison for sexual abuse.


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