Ex-Priest Won't Be Living in Santa Fe

Daily News
April 28, 2010

A former priest convicted of 34 counts of child molestation and child pornography possession won't be staying in Santa Fe, but people elsewhere might never know whether he's living next door.

Gilbert John Gauthe, 64, was released from the Galveston County Jail on Friday after serving a two-year sentence for failing to register as a sex offender. The former Roman Catholic priest admitted to sexually abusing 11 boys in Louisiana two decades ago, authorities said.

Gauthe was supposed to move in with a friend in Santa Fe, and his address is listed on the Texas Department of Public Safety's sex offender registry, but after word got out he decided to move elsewhere, Galveston County Sheriff's Office spokesman Maj. Ray Tuttoilmondo said.

Gauthe was the first Roman Catholic priest in the United States to go to trial on charges of sexual abuse of multiple children. His initial case, which drew national attention, also was the first to include allegations of church cover-ups of the sexual abuse of children.

Tuttoilmondo said Gauthe told officials the media coverage surrounding his release from jail last week prompted him to seek temporary housing at a hotel in the county. Officials could not say where he is staying.

'Transient' Status

Gauthe's address status is listed as "transient," meaning that unlike registered sex offenders whose addresses are part of a public database, his whereabouts is not subject to the same public disclosure, Tuttoilmondo said.

For example, a transient sex offender could move from one place to another such as from motel to motel. That information would not be part of the publicly accessible database, Galveston County and Santa Fe law enforcement officials said.

There is no requirement under the Texas sex offender registry laws that forces a registered sex offender to find permanent housing, Tuttoilmondo said.

As a condition of his release, Gauthe is supposed to report weekly to the Galveston County Sheriff's Office until he does find a long-term place to stay. He was at the sheriff's office Tuesday doing just that, Tuttoilmondo said.

It is during those weekly sessions that he is supposed to update officials on his whereabouts, but Tuttoilmondo said he was unable to release that information because the place Gauthe was staying was not a long-term residence.

Gauthe's registration can be found on the state's sex offender registry, which includes more than registered 500 sex offenders living in Galveston County, but his address is listed only as "transient."

"At this point, he has reported to us that he is staying at a hotel in the county," Tuttoilmondo said. "Until he gets a permanent address, we have to list him as a transient. We are encouraging him to find that permanent spot to stay."

The sheriff's office has about 170 registered sex offenders it tracks with one staff member dedicated to maintaining the management of the registry of sex offenders.

High-profile Case

Gauthe's case is one of the more infamous and was the first in the country involving a priest accused of sexually abusing several children. In 1984, details of his case were made public. Louisiana officials said they believe he was responsible for having sexually abused as many as 100 children, according news reports of the initial case.

News reports also quoted officials saying the Catholic Church had known about Gauthe's exploits 10 years before he was ever brought to trial but covered it up.

A bishop in Lafayette, La., reportedly told Gauthe, who was a priest at a church in Broussard, La., to confess his sins but took no disciplinary action against him, according to testimony during the trial. Later, even as more allegations about the sexual abuse of boys come forward, another bishop appointed Gauthe as the chaplain for the Boy Scouts in Abbeville, La.

He was convicted on 34 counts of child molestation and possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was released after nine years for good behavior, court records show.

Ten months after being released from prison, he was arrested and charged with molesting a 3-year-old boy in Texas and in 2008 was arrested by La Marque police at an RV park in Galveston for failing to register as a sex offender. He was sentenced to two years in jail.

Gauthe is required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

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