Local priest convicted of rape dies in prison
By Dan Copp
November 22, 2018
A local former Catholic priest convicted of raping an altar boy in 1996 has died in prison, officials said.
Robert Lester “Bobby” Melancon died Nov. 5 of natural causes at the age of 82, state corrections spokesman Ken Pastorick said.
Melancon, who moved from St. Genevieve in Thibodaux to Annunziata Parish in Houma in 1985, died while serving a life sentence at the David Wade Correctional Center, a minimum-security prison near Shreveport.
A Terrebonne Parish jury of seven men and five women convicted Melancon in 1996 of aggravated rape after less than two hours of deliberation following a 4 ½-day trial.
Prosecutors at the time said Melancon was a sexual predator who raped an 8-year-old altar boy several times from 1985 to 1991 at the Annunziata rectory.
The victim, who turned 19 during the trial, claimed the former priest had sodomized him after weddings, baptisms and funerals. Melancon’s attorneys argued the victim made false accusations after learning the priest had paid $30,000 to settle a sexual misconduct lawsuit against him in Thibodaux.
According to prison officials, Melancon maintained his innocence.
In a statement this week, the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux said it was aware of Melancon’s death.
“The Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux was notified by the family of Robert Lester ‘Bobby’ Melancon of his death, which occurred on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, at David Wade Correctional Center,” the Diocese said. “The family also indicated the privacy of all funeral services, which took place Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. We offer our prayers for all at this time.”
Houma-Thibodaux is one of several Catholic dioceses in Louisiana planning to release a list of priests who have been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse in the past 50 years, church officials said.
Houma-Thibodaux’s bishop, the Most Rev. Shelton Fabre, met with four other bishops last month to discuss releasing the lists in the wake of other such disclosures throughout the country.
Although church officials did not say when the list will be made public, Mark Toups, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux vicar general, said in an email the names will be released to “establish trust” with the public.