US Priest Accused of Pedophilia Dies in Martinique

Washington Post
January 7, 2011

FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique -- Laurence Brett, a former priest who vanished twice amid accusations that he sexually abused more than two dozen children in the U.S., has died in the French Caribbean island of Martinique, a hospital official said Friday.

Brett died at the Pierre Zobda Quitman hospital in the capital of Fort-de-France on Christmas Eve, said Joelle Louisor, a hospital administrator.

Louisor said she did not know the cause of death. But the Hartford Courant newspaper in Connecticut reported he apparently fell down some stairs and hit his head. The Courant said he was 73.

Brett disappeared in 1993 and was found by the Courant in 2002 on the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Maarten. The newspaper reported that he was living in a villa by a lagoon and that he had identified himself to acquaintances as a writer, a businessman and a CIA agent.

Brett then vanished again.

Two other priests later publicly apologized for keeping secret Brett's location.

Brett, who was defrocked, was accused of sexually abusing two dozen altar boys and others in Connecticut, New Mexico, California and Maryland. The accusations date back to the 1960s.

The Bridgeport, Conn., diocese learned of three old allegations against Brett in late 1992. Then-Bridgeport Bishop Edward Egan, who later became Cardinal Egan for the New York Archdiocese, called him back to the diocese, suspended him and asked that he voluntarily leave the priesthood. Brett at first agreed, but later changed his mind.

He left his home in Baltimore late that year or early the next, staying briefly at the home of a friend in Florida before dropping out of sight.

The Bridgeport diocese settled a lawsuit in 1997 brought by Frank Martinelli, a Connecticut man who claimed Brett molested him in the 1960s.

Baltimore authorities obtained two warrants for his arrest in 1999, but they were later vacated because, under some legal interpretations, the statute of limitations had expired. Authorities in Connecticut and other states have not tried to prosecute Brett because of statutes of limitations.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore did not immediately return a message seeking comment but posted a statement on its website.

"The prayers of the Archdiocese are with the victims of Laurence Brett and with all victims of sexual abuse," it said. "The Church reiterates its fervent belief that there is no place in the priesthood for anyone who would harm a child."

An official at Calvert Hall College High School in Baltimore, where Brett once worked, declined comment.

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