Defrocked Savannah Catholic priest Wayland Brown dies
By Jan Skutch
Savannah Morning News
June 25, 2019
Former Savannah Catholic priest Wayland Yoder Brown has died just months after he began serving a 20-year sentence for sexually assaulting two Savannah boys while still a priest.
South Carolina Department of Corrections official said Brown, 76, died at a hospital on June 8.
Brown pleaded guilty on Oct. 23 in Beaufort County, S.C., to nine charges including six counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, second degree and three counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, first degree.
“I do not expect the defendant to live through that sentence,” Judge Robert Hood said in imposing the 20-year sentence.
South Carolina 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone, who prosecuted Brown, said he hoped prosecuting Brown before he died gave his victims “at least some measure of peace.”
In Savannah, Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap said, “I’m really glad that the victims came forward when they did and that Duffie Stone was able to bring the case.
“And that the victims received justice before Brown died. We knew his health was failing but we made the decision to go forward.”
Heap sought Stone’s assistance because South Carolina had no statute of limitation to bar prosecution.
The indictment charged sexual battery in several locations, including St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Hardeeville, S.C., the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and the intersection of Stiney and Morgan roads in Hardeeville in the area surrounded by railroad tracks and depot area.
Both Savannah victims were child parishioners in St. James Catholic Church where Brown was associate pastor in 1987-88.
At his sentencing, a wheelchair-bound Brown told the court, “I want to thank the victims for coming forward; it crystallized my emotions about dealing with the past, from my perspective.
“It takes courage for any adult man to apologize to any other adult man. I don’t think the Catholic Church had any knowledge of what was going on.”
Brown said he could not make up for what he had done, saying he did not think there was to be any closure for this kind of event.
A native of Rome, Ga., Brown was ordained in the Savannah diocese in July 1977. He ministered in several parishes in Georgia and Maryland.
He was removed from the active ministry in July 1988. An “inactive priest” loses the title of “Father” and cannot wear priestly garb or present themselves publicly as a priest, according to Catholic doctrine.
In 2004, a Vatican decree removed him from the priesthood.
In June 2002 he was arrested in Savannah on charges of child abuse and perverted practice from Maryland stemming from misconduct in the 1970s when Brown was a seminarian in Washington, D.C.
He pleaded guilty in November 1977 to charges of child abuse and battery for performing sexual acts on a teenage boy and his younger brother, ages 13 and 12, between 1974-1977 in Gaithersburg, Md.
He was sentenced to 10 years in a Maryland prison in November 2002, but was released after serving five years because of credits he earned for good behavior. He was required to register as a sex offender in Maryland.
In 2016, the Savannah diocese reached a $4.5 million settlement through mediation of a lawsuit against Brown and two bishops stemming from sexual abuse of a minor - more than 30 years ago.
That suit, filed by Savannah attorney Mark Tate in the Court of Common Pleas in Jasper County, S.C., alleged that Brown took the plaintiff to Jasper County and had “multiple sexual encounters” with him between August 1987 and May 1988.
That settlement resolved claims against former Bishop Raymond Lessard and current Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, but not as to Brown.
In October 2009, the Savannah diocese agreed to pay $4.24 million to another victim who at the time of the acts was also a St. James Catholic School student.
That case also was filed in Jasper County.