Plymouth Shooting Victim Was Suing Church, Alleging Abuse

By Paula Tracy
New Hampshire Union Leader
September 9, 2011

A State Trooper stands outside this Texas Hill Road residence owned by Becky and John Labbe. Police tape blocks the road while an investigation into Labbe's death is investigated Friday.

Police are investigating the death of a 54-year-old Plymouth man at his Texas Hill Road home.

The body of John Labbe was found in a building on his property Thursday. An autopsy revealed he died of a gunshot wounds and the death has been ruled a homicide.

In May 2010, Labbe made headlines when he filed suit in Hillsborough County Superior Court North against the Diocese of Manchester and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Province of the United States, based in Washington, D.C. He alleged that the Rev. George St. Jean, now deceased, sexually assaulted him about 100 times as a boy growing up in Colebrook in the 1960s, often while the two sat in the backseat of the family car while Labbe's father shuttled the priest to Mass.

“God wants this,” St. Jean told Labbe more than once, the suit claims.

Attorney Jessica Arbour of the Miami law firm of Mermelstein & Horowitz was Labbe's attorney for the lawsuit. The case is in discovery and has not been adjudicated.

“He is a very courageous man and one of the first in New Hampshire to accuse a priest of sexual abuse,” said Arbour. “He is very simple, soft spoken.” Arbour said she had “no indication anyone would do this to him.”

Labbe “carried the message for a lot of people,” and “is a very sweet guy and brave man,” Arbour said.

The Attorney General's Office is looking for anyone with information about Labbe's actions on Sept. 6 through 8. Arbour said she had spoken to her client recently, but not since Sept. 6.

Police said they were called to the area for a medical emergency about 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Neighbors said they heard something Thursday and soon after heard sirens coming from the area at the intersection of Texas Hill and Cummings Hill roads, located in a remote southwestern part of the town.

At midmorning Friday, yellow police tape blocked off lower portions of Texas Hill Road, not far from the Bridgewater town line.

Area residents said that Rebecca and John Labbe have been longtime occupants of the home at 761 Texas Hill Road. Neighbors said the couple have chickens and John sold firewood.

Rebecca Labbe works in retail in the area and is listed among local farmers who sell eggs.

Town property maps indicate the Labbes own about 11 acres, which is typical for the neighborhood. The lots are big — most about 10 acres — and wooded. The home is a modified trailer with a back porch and a separate outbuilding.

In the 1960s, Labbe was an altar boy at St. Brendan's Church on Pleasant Street in Colebrook. He and his family were devout Catholics who helped at the church. Labbe said in court papers that the assaults by St. Jean began when he was 9 years old and lasted for four years.

More than once, St. Jean allegedly told Labbe not to tell anyone about the alleged abuse because it was “God's will,” the suit claims.

Labbe's suit also claims St. Jean sexually abused many other children while serving in New Hampshire and the diocese and oblate order knew or should have known it.

When Labbe first reported his alleged abuse to the oblate order in February 2008, “they never told him anything about there being other victims,” Arbour said at the time the suit was filed. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

St. Jean died Sept. 19, 1982, in Lowell, Mass.

David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said yesterday that Labbe was bravely taking legal action against church officials who hid child sex crimes."He was more concerned with deterring future cover-ups than he was in quietly settling with the Catholic hierarchy," Clohessy said.

"The easier path for abuse victims is to secretly approach top church staff seeking well-deserved financial restitution. John chose the harder path — publicly exposing wrongdoing and inspiring others to do the same. We are grateful for his courage and compassion."

Those who know anything about Labbe's activities between Tuesday and Thursday are asked to contact New Hampshire State Police at 271-3636.


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