Warrant Application Reveals More Altavilla Fetishes

By David Singleton
The Times-Tribune
April 15, 2014

Jason Farmer / Staff Photographer The Rev. Philip Altavilla, an adoptee, shows the congregation his childhood bunny as his gives the homily during Mother's Day Adoption Mass at St. Peter's Cathedral.

A Diocese of Scranton priest accused of inappropriately touching a teenage girl in 1998 told investigators he searches the Internet for depictions of women being strangled, chloroformed and sexually assaulted.

The information, contained in a search warrant application filed by Scranton police, added to the disturbing picture of the Rev. Philip Altavilla that has emerged since his April 3 arrest.

Father Altavilla, 48, is charged with providing alcohol to a 13-year-old girl he drove home after a Christmas Eve Mass at St. Patrick's Church in 1998, and then fondling her feet and moving his hand up her leg. The Times-Tribune does not identify victims of sexual assault.

The priest, who has been suspended by the diocese, faces a preliminary hearing April 30 on charges of indecent assault, attempted indecent assault and corruption of minors.

In seeking a warrant to search the contents of Father Altavilla's computer, iPad, iPhone and any storage devices, Detectives Jennifer Gerrity and Vincent Uher said Father Altavilla told them the day of his arrest he struggled with a fetish involving feet, pantyhose, chloroform and strangulation.

The investigators said in their affidavit that Father Altavilla admitted he had taken photographs of the victim's feet, as well as the feet of other teenage girls, and kept the pictures in a bag in his residence.

In addition, the affidavit stated, Father Altavilla acknowledged "that he uses the Internet to research videos and images depicting women being strangulated, given chloroform and then sexually assaulted."

The affidavit also makes a reference to a cryptic message sent to the priest's cellphone.

According to the detectives, Father Altavilla gave them permission to search his residence, where they seized his computer and iPhone.

After the phone was taken, according to the affidavit, a message appeared on the screen in plain view of Detective Uher indicating the author has been "haunted for years" and adding, "I still remember waking up with you."

"Nothing further was visible, but based on the training and experience of Detective Uher and Detective Gerrity, the content indicated possible sexual abuse," the affidavit stated.

Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer McCambridge confirmed the individual who sent the message is not the woman Father Altavilla is accused of assaulting in 1998.

Investigators are still awaiting a state police analysis of the contents of the computer and other devices.

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