Pedophile Priest Who Escaped FBI Dies in Martinique

By Dave Altimari
The Hartford Courant
January 5, 2011,0,2300511.story

Suspended Roman Catholic priest Laurence Brett is seen as he walks his dog along the back of the Koolbaai Village apartment complex, where he lives. (ALAN CHANIEWSKI / HARTFORD COURANT / August 28, 2002)

Former Bridgeport priest Laurence F.X. Brett, one of the most notorious pedophiles to emerge during the priest-abuse scandals of the 1990s, has died on the Caribbean island of Martinique, where he apparently has been living under an alias for the past several years.

While the details surrounding Brett's death are sketchy, a French newspaper confirmed through government officials that Brett died on Christmas day. He was 73.

Brett apparently fell down the stairs in his apartment and hit his head, according to a friend of his who contacted The Courant.

He died at the Hospital Pierre Zobda-Quimann, the main hospital on the island. It is unclear if anyone has claimed his body. He was checked into the hospital under the name James Brett, which was his father's name.

Officials with the Diocese of Bridgeport said they were unaware of Brett's death and had no idea he was living in Martinique.

Spokesman Brian Wallace said that Bishop William Lori laicized Brett — removed him from the priesthood —in 2002 after The Courant found Brett living on St. Maarten, also in the Caribbean. Brett had been wanted by the FBI for some years before the Courant found him.

"The whole thing is a tragedy in terms of the young lives that he abused and his own difficulties in life and the apparent tragic way that he died,'' Wallace said. "The church prays for all sinners whether its one of our own or a person on death row. We will pray for the repose of his soul."

It is unclear how long Brett had been living on Martinique, but a photo of him sitting in a restaurant there, and shown to The Courant, was taken within the past month.

"We're grateful that never again can Laurence Brett hurt another child. We hope Brett's death will bring some closure to the dozens of individuals he sexually assaulted,'' said Barbara Blaine, the national president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"At the same time, we hope some day that the current and former Catholic officials who ignored and concealed his crimes will be brought to justice. And we hope that every single person who was hurt by Brett finds the courage to come forward, get help, expose wrongdoing and start healing," Blaine said.

Brett disappeared from his Baltimore apartment in 1993 while he was still a priest in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

He remained in hiding after an arrest warrant was issued in 1999 alleging that he molested two boys at a Catholic high school in Baltimore.

In 1997, a jury in federal court in Connecticut found in favor of Frank Martinelli, a Milwaukee man who sued the Diocese of Bridgeport claiming it failed to remove Brett from the priesthood even though officials knew he was a potential pedophile. Testimony and documents made public during Martinelli's trial revealed that church leaders tried to cover up Brett's actions by shipping him out of state for treatment and by concocting a story that he had contracted hepatitis.

Brett was sent to New Mexico and eventually worked in Sacramento and Baltimore, leaving behind a trail of victims at each stop. Eventually, more than 20 people came forward to claim they were abused by Brett.

The Courant found Brett living in St. Maarten in 2002 and discovered that several people from the United States, including two priests from the Bridgeport Diocese, had kept in contact with Brett and had sent him money.

The priests, Rev. David Howell and Rev. Gerald Devore, were publically admonished by Lori and removed from their parishes to do penance. Both are now priests in good standing, Wallace said.

Church officials notified law enforcement authorities in Baltimore and Connecticut that Brett had been found and then began the process of laicizing him.

Brett had agreed in 1993 to be laicized, but then changed his mind. Then-Bishop Edward Egan did not go through with the process. Brett disappeared shortly after that, leaving behind all of his possessions in the apartment in Baltimore where he was living. He moved to Florida and stayed briefly with a friend named Jerry Valcik before heading to the Caribbean.

Valcik declined comment Wednesday,

At the time, he disappeared, the Archdiocese of Baltimore turned 15 more complaints against Brett over to authorities for possible criminal charges.

In 1999, authorities obtained arrest warrants charging Brett with sexual assault. But prosecutors eventually withdrew those charges because the specific statutes didn't exist in the early 1970s, when Brett was alleged to have committed the crimes.



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