The Books under Billy Doe's Bed

By Ralph Cipriano
Big Trial
February 6, 2013

When Billy Doe's mother testified before the grand jury in 2009, she talked about finding two mysterious books under her son's bed.

"When he went to the Christian Academy," the mother told the grand jury, "We found books under his bed that talked about sexual abuse, and they were from a library. And I would ask him why do you have these, and he would say they were from a girl at school and they need them for a report. And they never went away, they were always there."

"I was always digging through his room and he always had these books," Billy's mother told the grand jury. And we'd question him, did something happen to you, did someone touch you? And he would always say no."

There are two possible explanations for why those books were under Billy's bed.

To Billy Doe's defenders, the books are evidence that back when Billy was a high school student, he was trying to come to terms with the three rapes he had endured as a Catholic altar boy and school kid.

To Billy's detractors, however, the books show a con artist at work, doing research for a future story he would tell to bail himself out of legal jams and drug problems. They think he made the whole thing up.

Billy Doe is the pseudonym the grand jury used for a 24-year-old Northeast Philadelphia man who claimed to be a victim of sex abuse. Billy said when he was a 10-year-old fifth grader at St. Jerome's, he was raped by two Catholic priests. The following year, he said he was raped again when he was an 11-year-old sixth grader, this time by a Catholic school teacher.

The two books about sex abuse are mentioned in the 2011 Philadelphia grand jury report that resulted in the indictment of three priests and a school teacher in connection with the rapes of Billy Doe. All four are in jail.

Msgr. William J. Lynn is doing 3 to 6 years after being convicted of one count of endangering the welfare of a child, namely Billy Doe. Former priest Ed Avery is doing 2 1/2 to 5 years after pleading guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child.

Last week, Father Charles Engelhardt and former Catholic school teacher Bernard Shero were convicted on nine of ten counts involving two separate rapes of Billy Doe. Engelhardt and Shero, who are being held without bail, face a total of more than 90 years in prison when they are sentenced on March 18.

The 2011 grand jury report says:

"It was at an inpatient drug treatment facility that Billy first told someone about his abuse. Billy’s mother testified that she probably should have suspected something before then, because she found two books about sexual abuse hidden under Billy’s bed when he was in high school. She asked him about the books at the time, but he covered up for his abusers by telling her that he had them for a school assignment."

The two books in question according to police records are Know About Abuse, by Margaret O. Hyde, and Child Abuse, Brian J. Grapes, book editor. Both books were borrowed from the Ogontz branch of the Philadelphia Free Library back in 2004.

On Know About Abuse is described as a 93-page book published in 1992 for readers age 10 and up. 

A book review from the School Library Journal describes the book as "a brief, although sufficiently descriptive introduction to the various forms of abuse prevalent in the U.S. ... Hyde shows abuse as affecting a wide range of people at various ages ... Readers gain concrete information on how to help themselves, their friends or family members trapped in abusive cycles. The appended 'Where To Find Help' section includes national hotline numbers and resources; a short glossary and list of further reading complete this clearly written, informative and encouraging volume."

Child Abuse is described by as a 160-page book for ages 15 and up published in 2001. 

A book review from the School Library Journal describes the book as an anthology that "includes essays that initially appeared in periodicals, newspapers, books, government documents and public and private organizational publications ... Pulling no punches, this title covers its subjects well. Useful for research, for reports, and for debates."

Billy Doe was never asked in the grand jury or on the witness stand in two sex abuse trials about the books. But police found library cards tucked inside the books. The cards showed the books were taken out in 2004 by Chanee Mahoney, a 24-year-old young woman who's a 2005 graduate of the International Christian Academy in Northeast Philadelphia. That's the school where Billy Doe transferred after he was kicked out of Archbishop Ryan High as a freshman for possession of marijuana and a pair of brass knuckles.

On Jan. 17, 2012, Mahoney was interviewed by Detective David Fisher of the district attorney's office. In a Q and A format, Detective Fisher recorded his questions and Mahoney's answers.

The interview may shed some light on why the books under-the-bed tale disappeared from the prosecution story line. In the interview with Detective Fisher, Mahoney implies that Billy Doe is a liar, and possibly a thief:

"Q. Do you recall taking out two library books about abuse during your junior year 2004?"

"A. I don't remember."

"Q. I'm showing you the books titled Child Abuse by Bryan J. Grapes, Know About Abuse, by Margaret O. Hyde. Do you recall taking the books out of the library?"

"A. Yes."

"Q. Do you recall where the books were loaned from, which library?"

"A. I believe Ogontz Library at Spencer and Ogontz Ave. in Philadelphia?"

"Q. Do you know what happened to the books after you used them for school?"

"A. No."

"Q. Was the reading of the books ... and the school project a group or individual [project]?"

"A. Individual project."

"Q. Do you recognize any of the markings as yours in the books?"

"A. None of them are mine."

"Q. Did you loan either of the books you borrowed to another student?"

"A. No."

"Q. Do you know a student that went to International Christian Academy named [Billy Doe]?"

"A. The name does not sound familiar."

"Q. I'm showing you a photo of the eighth grade picture of [Billy Doe}. Do you recognize the person?"

"A. I recognize him."

"Q. Did you have classes with [Billy Doe]?"

"A. I'm not sure."

"Q. Would [Billy] have been given the same assignment from a teacher if he was in another class but the same teacher?"

"A. Yes, English."

"Q. How would you explain that [Billy] would have had your books that you borrowed from the Ogontz library?"

"A. I never locked my locker at school because I kept my personal belongings on me. He could have gone in the locker. I could have left them out somewhere. I definitely did not give them to him."

"Q. So if [Billy Doe] was to say you loaned or borrowed the library books for him for a subject paper while at International Christian Academy, would that be the truth?"

"A. No."

"Q. Tell me what you recall about [Billy]?"

"A. He was always getting in trouble with school."

"... Q. Is there anything else you can tell me about the books?"

"A. I could have left the books in a class or study hall. That's the only thing I could recall ..."

The subject of the two books was also broached by Detective Joseph Walsh of the district attorney's office on Jan. 9, 2012, when he interviewed Billy Doe's older brother.

"Q. Your parents found two books in [Billy]'s room bedroom dealing with sex abuse. Do you know anything about why the books were in his room?"

"A. No."


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